August 2021
Myeloid Cell–associated Resistance to PD-1/PD-L1 Blockade in Urothelial Cancer Revealed Through Bulk and Single-cell RNA Sequencing
Clinical Cancer Research

Authors: Li Wang, John P. Sfakianos, Kristin G. Beaumont, Guray Akturk, Amir Horowitz, Robert P. Sebra, Adam M. Farkas, Sacha Gnjatic, Austin Hake, Sudeh Izadmehr, Peter Wiklund, William K. Oh, Peter M. Szabo, Megan Wind-Rotolo, Keziban Unsal-Kacmaz, Xin Yao, Eric Schadt, Padmanee Sharma, Nina Bhardwaj, Jun Zhu and Matthew D. Galsky

Purpose: To define dominant molecular and cellular features associated with PD-1/PD-L1 blockade resistance in metastatic urothelial cancer.

Results: We identified an adaptive immune response gene signature associated with response and a protumorigenic inflammation gene signature associated with resistance to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade. The adaptive immune response:protumorigenic inflammation signature expression ratio, coined the 2IR score, best correlated with clinical outcomes, and was externally validated. Mapping these bulk gene signatures onto scRNA-seq data uncovered their underlying cellular diversity, with prominent expression of the protumorigenic inflammation signature by myeloid phagocytic cells. However, heterogeneity in expression of adaptive immune and protumorigenic inflammation genes was observed among single myeloid phagocytic cells, quantified as the myeloid single cell immune:protumorigenic inflammation ratio (Msc2IR) score. Single myeloid phagocytic cells with low Msc2IR scores demonstrated upregulation of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines and downregulation of antigen presentation genes, were unrelated to M1 versus M2 polarization, and were enriched in pretreatment blood samples from patients with PD-L1 blockade–resistant metastatic urothelial cancer.

Results: After a median follow-up of 14.8 months, median TTD was 7.8 months (95% confidence interval, 5.4-not estimable [NE]) in 75 African American patients versus 4.6 (2.4-7.2) in 110 White patients (hazard ratio [HR], 0.63). Median OS was not reached (18.4-NE) in African American patients versus 11.6 months (9.7-NE) in White patients (HR, 0.58). Multivariable Cox regression conducted with potential confounders confirmed longer TTD (adjusted HR, 0.65) and OS (adjusted HR, 0.60) in African American versus White patients. Similar real-world response rate (42.6% vs. 43.5%) and disease control rate (59.6% vs. 56.5%) were observed in the African American and White patient populations. Further investigation revealed the African American patient group had lower incidence (14.7%) of putative hyperprogressive diseases (HPD) upon anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment than the White patient group (24.5%).

Conclusion: The balance of adaptive immunity and protumorigenic inflammation in individual tumor microenvironments is associated with PD-1/PD-L1 resistance in urothelial cancer with the latter linked to a proinflammatory cellular state of myeloid phagocytic cells detectable in tumor and blood.

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