Compartmental Analysis of T-cell Clonal Dynamics as a Function of Pathologic Response to Neoadjuvant PD-1 Blockade in Resectable Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer


Purpose: Neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade is a promising treatment for resectable non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), yet immunologic mechanisms contributing to tumor regression and biomarkers of response are unknown. Using paired tumor/blood samples from a phase II clinical trial (NCT02259621), we explored whether the peripheral T-cell clonotypic dynamics can serve as a biomarker for response to neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade. Experimental Design: T-cell receptor (TCR) sequencing was performed on serial peripheral blood, tumor, and normal lung samples from resectable NSCLC patients treated with neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade. We explored the temporal dynamics of the T-cell repertoire in the peripheral and tumoral compartments in response to neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade by using the TCR as a molecular barcode. Results: Higher intratumoral TCR clonality was associated with reduced percent residual tumor at the time of surgery, and the TCR repertoire of tumors with major pathologic response (MPR; textless10% residual tumor after neoadjuvant therapy) had a higher clonality and greater sharing of tumor-infiltrating clonotypes with the peripheral blood relative to tumors without MPR. Additionally, the posttreatment tumor bed of patients with MPR was enriched with T-cell clones that had peripherally expanded between weeks 2 and 4 after anti–PD-1 initiation and the intratumoral space occupied by these clonotypes was inversely correlated with percent residual tumor. Conclusions: Our study suggests that exchange of T-cell clones between tumor and blood represents a key correlate of pathologic response to neoadjuvant immunotherapy and shows that the periphery may be a previously underappreciated originating compartment for effective antitumor immunity.See related commentary by Henick, p. 1205

Clinical Cancer Research