ARTICLE ABSTRACTPD-1 checkpoint blockade immunotherapy induces long and durable response in patients with advanced melanoma. However, only a subset of patients with melanoma benefit from this approach. The mechanism triggering the innate resistance of anti–PD-1 therapy remains unclear.Experimental Design: Whole-exome sequencing (WES) and RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) analyses were performed in a training cohort (n = 31) using baseline tumor biopsies of patients with advanced melanoma treated with the anti–PD-1 antibody. Copy-number variations (CNVs) for the genes CDK4, CCND1, and CDKN2A were assayed using a TaqMan copy-number assay in a validation cohort (n = 85). The effect of CDK4/6 inhibitors combined with anti–PD-1 antibody monotherapy was evaluated in PD-1–humanized mouse (C57BL/6-hPD-1) and humanized immune system (HIS) patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models.
WES revealed several significant gene copy-number gains in the patients of no clinical benefit cohort, such as 12q14.1 loci, which harbor CDK4. The association between CDK4 gain and innate resistance to anti–PD-1 therapy was validated in 85 patients with melanoma (P < 0.05). RNA-Seq analysis of CDK4-normal cell lines and CDK4-normal tumors showed altered transcriptional output in TNFα signaling via NF-κB, inflammatory response, and IFNγ response gene set. In addition, CDK4/6 inhibitor (palbociclib) treatment increased PD-L1 protein levels and enhanced efficacy (P < 0.05) in the C57BL/6-hPD-1 melanoma cell and the HIS PDX model.
In summary, we discovered that genetic aberrations in the CDK4 pathway are associated with innate resistance to anti–PD-1 therapy in patients with advanced melanoma. Moreover, our study provides a strong rationale for combining CDK4/6 inhibitors with anti–PD-1 antibody for the treatment of advanced melanomas.