We examined gene expression, germline variant, and somatic mutation features associated with pathologic response to neoadjuvant durvalumab plus chemotherapy in basal-like triple-negative breast cancer (bTNBC).
Germline and somatic whole-exome DNA and RNA sequencing, programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) IHC, and stromal tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte scoring were performed on 57 patients. We validated our results using 162 patients from the GeparNuevo randomized trial.
Gene set enrichment analysis showed that pathways involved in immunity (adaptive, humoral, innate), JAK–STAT signaling, cancer drivers, cell cycle, apoptosis, and DNA repair were enriched in cases with pathologic complete response (pCR), whereas epithelial–mesenchymal transition, extracellular matrix, and TGFβ pathways were enriched in cases with residual disease (RD). Immune-rich bTNBC with RD was enriched in CCL-3, -4, -5, -8, -23, CXCL-1, -3, -6, -10, and IL1, -23, -27, -34, and had higher expression of macrophage markers compared with immune-rich cancers with pCR that were enriched in IFNγ, IL2, -12, -21, chemokines CXCL-9, -13, CXCR5, and activated T- and B-cell markers (GZMB, CD79A). In the validation cohort, an immune-rich five-gene signature showed higher expression in pCR cases in the durvalumab arm (P = 0.040) but not in the placebo arm (P = 0.923) or in immune-poor cancers. Independent of immune markers, tumor mutation burden was higher, and PI3K, DNA damage repair, MAPK, and WNT/β-catenin signaling pathways were enriched in germline and somatic mutations in cases with pCR.
The TGFβ pathway is associated with immune-poor phenotype and RD in bTNBC. Among immune-rich bTNBC RD, macrophage/neutrophil chemoattractants dominate the cytokine milieu, and IFNγ and activated B cells and T cells dominate immune-rich cancers with pCR.