Medical Biology - Research Publications

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    Tissue-resident memory T cells from a metastatic vaginal melanoma patient are tumor-responsive T cells and increase after anti-PD-1 treatment
    Pizzolla, A ; Keam, SP ; Vergara, IA ; Caramia, F ; Thio, N ; Wang, M ; Kocovski, N ; Tantalo, D ; Jabbari, J ; Au-Yeung, G ; Sandhu, S ; Gyorki, DE ; Weppler, A ; Perdicchio, M ; McArthur, GA ; Papenfuss, AT ; Neeson, PJ (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2022-05-01)
    BACKGROUND: Vaginal melanoma (VM) is a rare cancer and has a poor response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB). CD8+Tissue Resident Memory (TRM) T cells proliferate in response to ICB and correlate with longer survival in metastatic cutaneous melanoma. However, their capacity to respond to VM and their neoantigens is not known. METHODS: Using longitudinal samples, we explored the evolution of VM mutations by whole-exome sequencing and RNAseq, we also defined the immune context using multiplex immunohistochemistry and nanostring pan cancer immune profile. Then using fresh single cell suspensions of the metastatic samples, we explored VM T cells via mass cytometry and single cell RNAseq and T cell receptor sequencing (TCRseq). Finally, we investigated TRM, pre-TRM and exhausted T cell function against melanoma neo-antigens and melanoma differentiation antigens in vitro. RESULTS: Primary VM was non-inflamed and devoid of CD8+ TRM cells. In contrast, both metastases showed proliferating CD8+ TRM were clustered at the tumor margin, with increased numbers in the second ICB-refractory metastasis. The first metastasis showed dense infiltration of CD8+ T cells, the second showed immune exclusion with loss of melanoma cell Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-I expression associated with downregulation of antigen presentation pathway gene expression. CD8+ TRM from both metastases responded to autologous melanoma cells more robustly than all other CD8+ T cell subsets. In addition, CD8+ TRM shared TCR clones across metastases, suggesting a response to common antigens, which was supported by recognition of the same neoantigen by expanded tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we identified TRM clusters in VM metastases from a patient, but not primary disease. We showed TRM location at the tumor margin, and their superior functional response to autologous tumor cells, predicted neoantigens and melanoma differentiation antigens. These CD8+ TRM exhibited the highest tumor-responsive potential and shared their TCR with tumor-infiltrating effector memory T cells. This suggests VM metastases from this patient retain strong antitumor T cell functional responses; however, this response is suppressed in vivo. The loss of VG MHC-I expression is a common immune escape mechanism which was not addressed by anti-PD-1 monotherapy; rather an additional targeted approach to upregulate MHC-I expression is required.
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    Characterization of the treatment-naive immune microenvironment in melanoma with BRAF mutation
    Wang, M ; Zadeh, S ; Pizzolla, A ; Thia, K ; Gyorki, DE ; McArthur, GA ; Scolyer, RA ; Long, G ; Wilmott, JS ; Andrews, MC ; Au-Yeung, G ; Weppler, A ; Sandhu, S ; Trapani, JA ; Davis, MJ ; Neeson, PJ (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2022-04-01)
    BACKGROUND: Patients with BRAF-mutant and wild-type melanoma have different response rates to immune checkpoint blockade therapy. However, the reasons for this remain unknown. To address this issue, we investigated the precise immune composition resulting from BRAF mutation in treatment-naive melanoma to determine whether this may be a driver for different response to immunotherapy. METHODS: In this study, we characterized the treatment-naive immune context in patients with BRAF-mutant and BRAF wild-type (BRAF-wt) melanoma using data from single-cell RNA sequencing, bulk RNA sequencing, flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry (IHC). RESULTS: In single-cell data, BRAF-mutant melanoma displayed a significantly reduced infiltration of CD8+ T cells and macrophages but also increased B cells, natural killer (NK) cells and NKT cells. We then validated this finding using bulk RNA-seq data from the skin cutaneous melanoma cohort in The Cancer Genome Atlas and deconvoluted the data using seven different algorithms. Interestingly, BRAF-mutant tumors had more CD4+ T cells than BRAF-wt samples in both primary and metastatic cohorts. In the metastatic cohort, BRAF-mutant melanoma demonstrated more B cells but less CD8+ T cell infiltration when compared with BRAF-wt samples. In addition, we further investigated the immune cell infiltrate using flow cytometry and multiplex IHC techniques. We confirmed that BRAF-mutant melanoma metastases were enriched for CD4+ T cells and B cells and had a co-existing decrease in CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, we then identified B cells were associated with a trend for improved survival (p=0.078) in the BRAF-mutant samples and Th2 cells were associated with prolonged survival in the BRAF-wt samples. CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, treatment-naive BRAF-mutant melanoma has a distinct immune context compared with BRAF-wt melanoma, with significantly decreased CD8+ T cells and increased B cells and CD4+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment. These findings indicate that further mechanistic studies are warranted to reveal how this difference in immune context leads to improved outcome to combination immune checkpoint blockade in BRAF-mutant melanoma.