Background - In the NeoTRIPaPDL1 phase III trial, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients were randomized to receive nab-paclitaxel/carboplatin for 8 cycles (CT arm) with or without atezolizumab (CT/A arm). We previously reported that the majority of patients (65%) with PD-L1- at baseline converted to PD-L1+ (the majority with IC2/IC3) after the first cycle of treatment in the atezolizumab arm. Here we studied treatment associated changes in the molecular tumour features and immune microenvironment by PD-L1 expression. Methods – A total of 158 (56.4%) of patients enrolled in the NeoTRIPaPDL1 trial (76 and 82 from CT/A and CT arm, respectively) were included in this analysis by satisfying the following criteria: i) availability of a paired core biopsy at baseline and at day 1 of the second treatment cycle (D1C2); ii) evaluation of stromal TILs (sTILs) and staining for PD-L1 (Ventana SP142); iii) successful RNA-seq gene expression profiling. PD-L1 groups were defined as IC0/IC1 (<5% PD-L1low) vs IC2/IC3 (>=5% PD-L1high). Presence of different immune cell populations was quantified by gene expression profile deconvolution using ConsensusTME R package. Cancer hallmark gene set collection and custom signature activation status were estimated in each sample using singscore R package. Differences in score distribution were evaluated by 2-sided t-test. Results At baseline, both sTILs and immune cell signatures were upregulated in PD-L1high compared to PD-L1low tumours (p<0.001). No significant differences were found between the two treatment arms in the PD-L1high subpopulation. In the PD-L1low cases, both sTILs and immune related signatures were slightly downregulated in the CT/A arm (p<0.05), suggesting a modest unbalance among treatment arms with CT arm being slightly more inflamed than CT/A arm.At D1C2, PD-L1high tumours in the CT arm systematically had high sTILs (median=70%, range=30-90%), while PD-L1low tumours receiving CT/A had low sTILs in a significant proportion of cases (median=30%, range=0-90%; p<0.001). Similarly, at D1C2 several gene expression-estimated immune cell populations and immune-related signatures were upregulated in the CT arm compared to CT/A arm in PD-L1high tumours, with the weakest association observed for M2 macrophages (p=0.058). No tumour-related signatures were differentially expressed among the two treatment arms within groups with PD-L1high, suggesting that different treatment. modulate PD-L1 by engaging a different immune mileau instead of modulating tumor related features.Considering PD-L1low groups at D1C2, in the CT arm 21 tumors had >30% sTILs (n=21/69, 30.4%), while in the CT/A arm only 2 had sTILs >30% (2/27, 7.4%) (p<0.001). Analysis of gene expression data identified IFN-related signatures as the most upregulated in the CT compared to CT/A arm in PD-L1low cases at D1C2 (p<0.05). Conclusions Integrated dynamic analysis of PD-L1 expression and gene expression data highlighted significant treatment-specific changes of the immune landscape according to PD-L1 expression, when this biomarker is assessed during treatment. This indicates that the immune milieu associated with PD-L1 status is strongly dependent on the time of assessment in relationship to treatment received. Such observation may explain why in the NeoTRIP trial, baseline PD-L1 but not on-treatment PD-L1 was predictive of pCR in CT/A arm. In addition, our findings could have implications related to the use of PD-L1 as a predictive biomarker in pre-treated patients, especially when assessed early on during treatment.

Citation Format: Maurizio Callari, Chiun-Sheng Huang, Daniel Egle, Begoña Bermejo, Claudio Zamagni, Matteo Dugo, Marc Thill, Antonio Anton, Marco Barreca, Stefania Russo, Eva Maria Ciruelos, Richard Greil, Stefania Zambelli, Balázs Gyorffy, Chanel Smart, Olivia Biasi, Pinuccia Valagussa, Giuseppe Viale, Luca Gianni, Giampaolo Bianchini. Immune milieu associated with PD-L1 status in TNBC is dependent on time of biomarker assessment and treatment received: A secondary analysis of the NeoTRIPaPDL1 trial [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2021 Dec 7-10; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(4 Suppl):Abstract nr P1-04-02.