Evaluation of tumor microenvironment and biomarkers of immune checkpoint inhibitor response in metastatic renal cell carcinoma

Landon C. Brown, Jason Zhu, Kunal Desai, Emily Kinsey, Chester Kao, Yong Hee Lee, Sarabjot Pabla, Matthew K. Labriola, Jennifer Tran, Konstantin H. Dragnev, Laura J. Tafe, Farshid Dayyani, Rajan T. Gupta, Shannon McCall, Daniel J. George, Sean T. Glenn, Mary K. Nesline, Saby George, Matthew Zibelman, Carl MorrisonMoshe C. Ornstein, Tian Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Immunotherapy combinations including ipilimumab and nivolumab are now the standard of care for untreated metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC). Biomarkers of response are lacking to predict patients who will have a favorable or unfavorable response to immunotherapy. This study aimed to use the OmniSeq transcriptome-based platform to develop biomarkers of response to immunotherapy. Methods Two cohorts of patients were retrospectively collected. These included an investigational cohort of patients with mRCC treated with immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy from five institutions, and a subsequent validation cohort of patients with mRCC treated with combination ipilimumab and nivolumab from two institutions (Duke Cancer Institute and Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center). Tissue-based RNA sequencing was performed using the OmniSeq Immune Report Card on banked specimens to identify gene signatures and immune checkpoints associated with differential clinical outcomes. A 5-gene expression panel was developed based on the investigational cohort and was subsequently evaluated in the validation cohort. Clinical outcomes including progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were extracted by retrospective chart review. Objective response rate (ORR) was assessed by Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) V.1.1. Results The initial investigation cohort identified 86 patients with mRCC who received nivolumab (80%, 69/86), ipilimumab/nivolumab (14%, 12/86), or pembrolizumab (6%, 5/86). A gene expression score was created using the top five genes found in responders versus non-responders (FOXP3, CCR4, KLRK1, ITK, TIGIT). The ORR in patients with high gene expression (GE high) on the 5-gene panel was 29% (14/48), compared with low gene expression (GE low) 3% (1/38, χ 2 p=0.001). The validation cohort was comprised of 62 patients who received ipilimumab/nivolumab. There was no difference between GE high and GE low in terms of ORR (44% vs 38.5%), PFS (HR 1.5, 95% CI 0.58 to 3.89), or OS (HR 0.96, 95% CI 0.51 to 1.83). Similarly, no differences in ORR, PFS or OS were observed when patients were stratified by tumor mutational burden (high=top 20%), PD-L1 (programmed death-ligand 1) expression by immunohistochemistry or RNA expression, or CTLA-4 (cytotoxic T-lymphocytes-associated protein 4) RNA expression. The International Metastatic RCC Database Consortium (IMDC) risk score was prognostic for OS but not PFS. Conclusion A 5-gene panel that was associated with improved ORR in a predominantly nivolumab monotherapy population of patients with mRCC was not predictive for radiographic response, PFS, or OS among patients with mRCC treated with ipilimumab and nivolumab.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere005249
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 17 2022


  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Immunotherapy
  • Kidney Neoplasms
  • Tumor Biomarkers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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