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

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Science  12 Mar 2015:
aaa1348
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1348

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Abstract

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 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 shape response to anti-PD-1 therapy.

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