Background: The explosion in new treatment options targeting immune checkpoints, HER signaling, DNA repair deficiency, AKT, and other pathways calls for updated breast cancer subtypes beyond HR and HER2 status to predict which patients will respond to which treatments. Here we leverage the I-SPY 2 TRIAL biomarker program over the past 8 years across 10 treatment arms to elucidate a minimal set of biomarkers that may improve response prediction in a modern treatment context, and to investigate which new patient phenotypes are identified by these response-predictive biomarkers.
Methods: 986 patients were considered in this analysis. Treatments included paclitaxel alone (or with trastuzumab (H) in HER2+) or combined with investigational agents: veliparib/carboplatin (VC); neratinib; MK2206; Ganitumab; Ganetespib; AMG386; TDM1/pertuzumab (P); H/P; and Pembrolizumab (Pembro). 24 prospectively defined, mechanism-of-action and pathway-based expression and phospho-protein signatures/biomarkers assayed from pre-treatment biopsies were previously found to be predictive in a particular agent/arm in pre-specified analysis. Here we evaluate these biomarkers in all patients. We assessed association between each biomarker and response in the population as a whole and within each arm and HR/HER2 subtype using a logistic model. To identify optimal dichotomizing thresholds for select biomarkers, 2-fold cross-validation was repeated 500 times. Our analysis is exploratory and does not adjust for multiplicities.
Results: Our initial set of 24 predictive biomarkers reflects DNA repair deficiency (n=2), immune activation (n=7), ER signaling (n=2), HER2 signaling (n=4), proliferation (n=2), phospho-activation of AKT/mTOR (n=2), and ANG/TIE2 (n=1) pathways, among others. Biomarkers reflecting similar biology are correlated and cluster together. We make use of this correlation structure to reduce the dimensionality of the biomarker set to five predictive signals: proliferation, DNA repair deficiency (DRD), immune-engaged (Immune+), luminal/ER (lum), and HER2-activated. These biomarkers, when dichotomized, identify patient groups with differential predicted sensitivities to I-SPY 2 agents and are present at different proportions within receptor subtypes. For instance, in the HER2- subset, Immune+/DRD+ patients are predicted sensitive to both VC and Pembro, and account for 39% of TN, but only 12% of HR+HER2-. On the other end of the spectrum, only 17% of TN are Immune-/DRD-, compared to the majority (56%) of HR+HER2-. There are also subsets of patients positive for only one marker. For the HER2+ subset, 67% are HER2-activated+, and 25% lum+; of these HER2-activated+ patients are more likely to be Immune+ (44%), vs 23% in lum+. HER2-activated+/Immune+ patients have higher predicted sensitivity to HER2-targeted agents than lum+ or Immune- patients.
In all, these molecular phenotypes predict sensitivity to one or more I-SPY 2 investigational agents for 75% of the ~ 1000 patients.
Conclusion: Molecular phenotypes reflecting proliferation, immune engagement, HER2-activation, luminal/ER-signaling, and DNA repair deficiency may provide a roadmap to guide treatment prioritization for emerging therapeutics.