Clonal KEAP1 mutations with loss of heterozygosity share reduced immunotherapy efficacy and low immune cell infiltration in lung adenocarcinoma

Ann Oncol. 2023 Mar;34(3):275-288. doi: 10.1016/j.annonc.2022.12.002. Epub 2022 Dec 13.


Background: KEAP1 mutations have been associated with reduced survival in lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), particularly in the presence of STK11/KRAS alterations. We hypothesized that, beyond co-occurring genomic events, clonality prediction may help identify deleterious KEAP1 mutations and their counterparts with retained sensitivity to ICIs.

Patients and methods: Beta-binomial modelling of sequencing read counts was used to infer KEAP1 clonal inactivation by combined somatic mutation and loss of heterozygosity (KEAP1 C-LOH) versus partial inactivation [KEAP1 clonal diploid-subclonal (KEAP1 CD-SC)] in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) MetTropism cohort (N = 2550). Clonality/LOH prediction was compared to a streamlined clinical classifier that relies on variant allele frequencies (VAFs) and tumor purity (TP) (VAF/TP ratio). The impact of this classification on survival outcomes was tested in two independent cohorts of LUAD patients treated with immunotherapy (MSK/Rome N = 237; DFCI N = 461). Immune-related features were studied by exploiting RNA-sequencing data (TCGA) and multiplexed immunofluorescence (DFCI mIF cohort).

Results: Clonality/LOH inference in the MSK MetTropism cohort overlapped with a clinical classification model defined by the VAF/TP ratio. In the ICI-treated MSK/Rome discovery cohort, predicted KEAP1 C-LOH mutations were associated with shorter progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) compared to KEAP1 wild-type cases (PFS log-rank P = 0.001; OS log-rank P < 0.001). Similar results were obtained in the DFCI validation cohort (PFS log-rank P = 0.006; OS log-rank P = 0.014). In both cohorts, we did not observe any significant difference in survival outcomes when comparing KEAP1 CD-SC and wild-type tumors. Immune deconvolution and multiplexed immunofluorescence revealed that KEAP1 C-LOH and KEAP1 CD-SC differed for immune-related features.

Conclusions: KEAP1 C-LOH mutations are associated with an immune-excluded phenotype and worse clinical outcomes among advanced LUAD patients treated with ICIs. By contrast, survival outcomes of patients whose tumors harbored KEAP1 CD-SC mutations were similar to those with KEAP1 wild-type LUADs.

Keywords: KEAP1; clonal mutations; immunotherapy; loss of heterozygosity; lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Kelch-Like ECH-Associated Protein 1 / genetics
  • Loss of Heterozygosity
  • Lung Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mutation
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / genetics


  • Kelch-Like ECH-Associated Protein 1
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • KEAP1 protein, human