Abstract No. 
2019 ASCO Annual Meeting
May 30 - June 4

Quantitative MHC II protein expression levels in tumor epithelium to predict response to the PD1 inhibitor pembrolizumab in the I-SPY 2 Trial

Wulfkuhle JD, Yau C, Wolf D, Gallagher RI, Brown-Swigart L, Hirst GL, Campbell M, Nanda R, Liu MC, Pusztai L, Esserman L, Berry DA, van 't Veer L, Petricoin E


Response to immune checkpoint inhibitors has been associated with immune activation and mutational load within a tumor. Previous results in other tumors have implicated MHC II protein tumor cell expression as a response predictor to immune checkpoint inhibitors. In the I-SPY 2 TRIAL, the anti-PD1 therapeutic antibody pembrolizumab (P) was available to HER2-negative subtypes and graduated in both the HR+/HER2- and TNBC signatures. Pre-specified biomarker analysis was performed to test tumor MHC II expression as a predictor of response to P in the I-SPY 2 TRIAL based on its central role in tumor antigen presentation.


156 patients (P: 67, controls: 89) had RPPA and pCR data. RPPA-based quantitative data for pan-MHC II protein isotypes HLA-DR/DP/DQ/DX and HLA-DR protein isotype was obtained from LCM-enriched tumor epithelium, and protein levels were assessed for association with pCR in the P and control arms separately using the Wilcoxon Rank Sum test (p < 0.05). Analysis was also performed in the HR+ and HR- subgroups. Markers were analyzed individually; p-values are descriptive and were not corrected for multiple comparisons.


Across all P- treated patients, the HLA class II molecules –DR and -DR/DP/DQ/DX had a positive association with response to P (p = 0.014 and p = 0.001). Expression of HLA-DR/DP/DQ/DX also had a positive association with response to P in HR+ tumors. Neither of these associations were seen in the control arm samples.


The observation of elevation of MHC II protein expression in HER2- responding patients treated with P suggests that activation of antigen peptide exchange facilitated by these molecules in T and B cells may enhance response to P treatment.

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