BACKGROUND: Immune checkpoint blockers (ICBs) activate CD8+ T cells, eliciting both anti-cancer activity and immune-related adverse events (irAEs). The relationship of irAEs with baseline parameters and clinical outcome is unclear. METHODS: Retrospective evaluation of irAEs on survival was performed across primary (N = 144) and secondary (N = 211) independent cohorts of patients with metastatic melanoma receiving single agent (pembrolizumab/nivolumab-sICB) or combination (nivolumab and ipilimumab-cICB) checkpoint blockade. RNA from pre-treatment and post-treatment CD8+ T cells was sequenced and differential gene expression according to irAE development assessed. RESULTS: 58.3% of patients developed early irAEs and this was associated with longer progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) across both cohorts (log-rank test, OS: P < 0.0001). Median survival for patients without irAEs was 16.6 months (95% CI: 10.9-33.4) versus not-reached (P = 2.8 × 10-6). Pre-treatment monocyte and neutrophil counts, but not BMI, were additional predictors of clinical outcome. Differential expression of numerous gene pathway members was observed in CD8+ T cells according to irAE development, and patients not developing irAEs demonstrating upregulated CXCR1 pre- and post-treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Early irAE development post-ICB is associated with favourable survival in MM. Development of irAEs is coupled to expression of numerous gene pathways, suggesting irAE development in-part reflects baseline immune activation.
Br J Cancer