Identification of NOTCH4 mutation as a response biomarker for immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy

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BMC Med. 2021 Jul 21;19(1):154. doi: 10.1186/s12916-021-02031-3.


BACKGROUND: Immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy elicits durable antitumor responses in patients with many types of cancer. Genomic mutations may be used to predict the clinical benefits of ICI therapy. NOTCH homolog-4 (NOTCH4) is frequently mutated in several cancer types, but its role in immunotherapy is still unclear. Our study is the first to study the association between NOTCH4 mutation and the response to ICI therapy.

METHODS: We tested the predictive value of NOTCH4 mutation in the discovery cohort, which included non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, esophagogastric cancer, and bladder cancer patients, and validated it in the validation cohort, which included non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, colorectal cancer, esophagogastric cancer, glioma, bladder cancer, head and neck cancer, cancer of unknown primary, and breast cancer patients. Then, the relationships between NOTCH4 mutation and intrinsic and extrinsic immune response mechanisms were studied with multiomics data.

RESULTS: We collected an ICI-treated cohort (n = 662) and found that patients with NOTCH4 mutation had better clinical benefits in terms of objective response rate (ORR: 42.9% vs 25.9%, P = 0.007), durable clinical benefit (DCB: 54.0% vs 38.1%, P = 0.021), progression-free survival (PFS, hazard ratio [HR] = 0.558, P < 0.001), and overall survival (OS, HR = 0.568, P = 0.006). In addition, we validated the prognostic value of NOTCH4 mutation in an independent ICI-treated cohort (n = 1423). Based on multiomics data, we found that NOTCH4 mutation is significantly associated with enhanced immunogenicity, including a high tumor mutational burden, the expression of costimulatory molecules, and activation of the antigen-processing machinery, and NOTCH4 mutation positively correlates activated antitumor immunity, including infiltration of diverse immune cells and various immune marker sets.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicated that NOTCH4 mutation serves as a novel biomarker correlated with a better response to ICI therapy.

PMID:34284787 | DOI:10.1186/s12916-021-02031-3