Mutational landscape determines sensitivity to PD-1 blockade in non–small cell lung cancer

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 124-128
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1348

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Immune checkpoint inhibitors, which unleash a patient’s own T cells to kill tumors, are revolutionizing cancer treatment. To unravel the genomic determinants of response to this therapy, we used whole-exome sequencing of non–small cell lung cancers treated with pembrolizumab, an antibody targeting programmed cell death-1 (PD-1). In two independent cohorts, higher nonsynonymous mutation burden in tumors was associated with improved objective response, durable clinical benefit, and progression-free survival. Efficacy also correlated with the molecular smoking signature, higher neoantigen burden, and DNA repair pathway mutations; each factor was also associated with mutation burden. In one responder, neoantigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses paralleled tumor regression, suggesting that anti–PD-1 therapy enhances neoantigen-specific T cell reactivity. Our results suggest that the genomic landscape of lung cancers shapes response to anti–PD-1 therapy.

More mutations predict better efficacy

Despite the remarkable success of cancer immunotherapies, many patients do not respond to treatment. Rizvi et al. studied the tumors of patients with non–small-cell lung cancer undergoing immunotherapy. In two independent cohorts, treatment efficacy was associated with a higher number of mutations in the tumors. In one patient, a tumor-specific T cell response paralleled tumor regression.

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