Lymphocyte-activation gene-3 (LAG-3), an immune checkpoint receptor, negatively regulates T-cell function and facilitates immune escape of tumors. Dual inhibition of LAG-3 and programmed cell death receptor-1 (PD-1) significantly improved progression-free survival (PFS) in metastatic melanoma patients compared to anti-PD-1 therapy alone. Investigating the utility of LAG-3 expression as a biomarker of response to anti-LAG-3 + anti-PD-1 immunotherapy is of great clinical relevance. This study sought to evaluate the association between baseline LAG-3 expression and clinical outcomes following anti-LAG-3 and anti-PD-1-based immunotherapy in metastatic melanoma. LAG-3 immunohistochemistry (clone D2G4O) was performed on pre-treatment formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded metastatic melanoma specimens from 53 patients treated with combination anti-LAG-3 + anti-PD-1-based therapies. Eleven patients had received prior anti-PD-1-based treatment. Patients were categorized as responders (complete/partial response; n = 36) or non-responders (stable/progressive disease; n = 17) based on the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST). Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) were scored on hematoxylin and eosin-stained sections. LAG-3 expression was observed in 81% of patients, with staining in TILs and dendritic cells. Responders displayed significantly higher proportions of LAG-3+ cells compared to non-responders (P = .0210). LAG-3 expression positively correlated with TIL score (P < .01). There were no significant differences in LAG-3 expression between different sites of metastases (P > .05). Patients with ≥ 1% LAG-3+ cells in their tumors had significantly longer PFS compared to patients with < 1% LAG-3 expression (P = .0037). No significant difference was observed in overall survival between the two groups (P = .1417). Therefore, the assessment of LAG-3 expression via IHC warrants further evaluation to determine its role as a predictive marker of response and survival in metastatic melanoma.
Keywords: LAG-3; biomarker; immune checkpoint inhibitors; immunotherapy; melanoma.
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.