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Checkpoint-blocker induced autoimmunity is associated with pretreatment T cell expression profiles and favourable outcome in melanoma

By W Ye, Anna Olsson-Brown, Robert A Watson, Vincent TF Cheung, Robert D Morgan, Isar Nassiri, Rosalin Cooper, Chelsea Taylor, Oliver Brain, Rubeta N Matin, Nicholas Coupe, Mark R Middleton, Mark Coles, Joseph J Sacco, Miranda J Payne, Benjamin Fairfax

Posted 24 Jun 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.23.20138594

1 Abstract 1.1 Background Immune checkpoint blockers (ICBs) activate CD8+ T cells to elicit anti-cancer activity but frequently lead to immune-related adverse events (irAEs). The relationship of irAE with baseline parameters and clinical outcome is unclear. We investigated associations between irAE development, CD8+ T cell receptor diversity and expression and clinical outcome in a non trial setting. 1.2 Methods Patients [&ge;]18 years old with metastatic melanoma (MM) receiving combination ICB (ipilimumab plus nivolumab, cICB, n=60) or single agent ICB (nivolumab/pembrolizumab, sICB, n=78) were prospectively recruited. We retrospectively evaluated the impact of irAEs on survival. This analysis was repeated in an independent cohort of MM patients treated at a separate institution (n=210, cICB:74, sICB:136). We performed RNA sequencing of CD8+ T cells isolated from patients prior to treatment, analysing T cell receptor clonality differential transcript expression according to irAE development. 1.3 Results 48.6% of patients experienced treatment related irAEs within the first 5 cycles of treatment. Development of irAE prior to the 5th cycle of ICB was associated with longer progression free and overall survival (PFS, OS) in the primary cohort (log rank test, PFS: P=0.00034; OS: P<0.0001), replicated in the secondary cohort (OS: P=0.00064). Across cohorts median survival for those patients not experiencing irAE was 14.4 (95% CI:9.6:19.5) months vs not-reached (95% CI:28.9:Inf), P=3.0x10-7. Pre-treatment performance status and neutrophil count, but not BMI, were additional predictors of clinical outcome. Analysis of CD8+ T cells from 128 patients demonstrated irAE development was associated with increased T cell receptor diversity post-treatment (P=4.3x10-5). Development of irAE in sICB recipients was additionally associated with baseline differential expression of 224 transcripts (FDR<0.1), enriched in pro-inflammatory pathway genes including CYP4F3 and PTGS2. 1.4 Conclusions Early irAE development post ICB is strongly associated with favourable survival in MM and increased diversity of peripheral CD8+ T cell receptors after treatment. irAE post sICB is associated with pre-treatment upregulation of inflammatory pathways, indicating irAE development may reflect baseline immune activation states.

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