Babačić H, Lehtiö J, Pico de Coaña Y, Pernemalm M, Eriksson H
J Immunother Cancer 8 (1) e000204 [2020-05-00; online 2020-05-28]
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have significantly improved the outcome in metastatic cutaneous melanoma (CM). However, therapy response is limited to subgroups of patients and clinically useful predictive biomarkers are lacking. To discover treatment-related systemic changes in plasma and potential biomarkers associated with treatment outcome, we analyzed serial plasma samples from 24 patients with metastatic CM, collected before and during ICI treatment, with mass-spectrometry-based global proteomics (high-resolution isoelectric focusing liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HiRIEF LC-MS/MS)) and targeted proteomics with proximity extension assays (PEAs). In addition, we analyzed plasma proteomes of 24 patients with metastatic CM treated with mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitors (MAPKis), to pinpoint changes in protein plasma levels specific to the ICI treatment. To detect plasma proteins associated with treatment response, we performed stratified analyses in anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (anti-PD-1) responders and non-responders. In addition, we analyzed the association between protein plasma levels and progression-free survival (PFS) by Cox proportional hazards models. Unbiased HiRIEF LC-MS/MS-based proteomics showed plasma levels' alterations related to anti-PD-1 treatment in 80 out of 1160 quantified proteins. Circulating PD-1 had the highest increase during anti-PD-1 treatment (log2-FC=2.03, p=0.0008) and in anti-PD-1 responders (log2-FC=2.09, p=0.005), but did not change in the MAPKis cohort. Targeted, antibody-based proteomics by PEA confirmed this observation. Anti-PD-1 responders had an increase in plasma proteins involved in T-cell response, neutrophil degranulation, inflammation, cell adhesion, and immune suppression. Furthermore, we discovered new associations between plasma proteins (eg, interleukin 6, interleukin 10, proline-rich acidic protein 1, desmocollin 3, C-C motif chemokine ligands 2, 3 and 4, vascular endothelial growth factor A) and PFS, which may serve as predictive biomarkers. We detected an increase in circulating PD-1 during anti-PD-1 treatment, as well as diverse immune plasma proteomic signatures in anti-PD-1 responders. This study demonstrates the potential of plasma proteomics as a liquid biopsy method and in discovery of putative predictive biomarkers for anti-PD-1 treatment in metastatic CM.