Molecular heterogeneity of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapy efficacy is correlated with tumor immune microenvironment in East Asian patients with non-small cell lung cancer

Lung Cancer

Cancer Biol Med. 2020 Aug 15;17(3):768-781. doi: 10.20892/j.issn.2095-3941.2020.0121.


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate how the tumor immune microenvironment differs regarding tumor genomics, as well as its impact on prognoses and responses to immunotherapy in East Asian patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Methods: We performed an integrated analysis using publicly available data to identify associations between anti-programmed death 1 (PD-1)/ programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) immunotherapy efficacy and classic driver oncogene mutations in East Asian NSCLC patients. Four pooled and clinical cohort analyses were used to correlate driver oncogene mutation status and tumor microenvironment based on PD-L1 and CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). Immune infiltrating patterns were also established for genomic NSCLC subgroups using the CIBERSORT algorithm. Results: Based on East Asian NSCLC patients, TIDE analyses revealed that for anti-PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapy, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mutant and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-rearranged tumors yielded inferior responses; however, although Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS)-mutant tumors responded better, the difference was not statistically significant (EGFR: P = 0.037; ALK: P < 0.001; KRAS: P = 0.701). Pooled and clinical cohort analyses demonstrated tumor immune microenvironment heterogeneities correlated with oncogenic patterns. The results showed remarkably higher PD-L1- and TIL-positive KRAS-mutant tumors, suggesting KRAS mutations may drive an inflammatory phenotype with adaptive immune resistance. However, the EGFR-mutant or ALK-rearranged groups showed a remarkably higher proportion of PD-L1-/TIL-tumors, suggesting an uninflamed phenotype with immunological ignorance. Notably, similar to triple wild-type NSCLC tumors, EGFR L858R-mutant tumors positively correlated with an inflammatory phenotype, suggesting responsiveness to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapy (P < 0.05). Furthermore, the CIBERSORT algorithm results revealed that EGFR-mutant and ALK-rearranged tumors were characterized by an enriched resting memory CD4+ T cell population (P < 0.001), as well as a lack of CD8+ T cells (P < 0.01), and activated memory CD4+ T cells (P = 0.001). Conclusions: Our study highlighted the complex relationships between immune heterogeneity and immunotherapeutic responses in East Asian NSCLC patients regarding oncogenic dependence.