BAP1 Deficiency Inflames the Tumor Immune Microenvironment and Is a Candidate Biomarker for Immunotherapy Response in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

JTO Clinical and Research Reports 2024 March 29 [Link]

Duo Xu, Yanyun Gao, Haitang Yang, Marc Spils, Thomas M Marti, Tereza Losmanová, Min Su, Wenxiang Wang, Qinghua Zhou, Patrick Dorn, Yongqian Shu, Ren-Wang Peng


Introduction: Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare and universally lethal malignancy with limited treatment options. Immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) has recently been approved for unresectable MPM, but response to ICIs is heterogeneous, and reliable biomarkers for prospective selection of appropriate subpopulations likely to benefit from ICIs remain elusive.

Methods: We performed multiscale integrative analyses of published primary tumor data set from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and the French cohort E-MTAB-1719 to unravel the tumor immune microenvironment of MPM deficient in BAP1, one of the most frequently mutated tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) in the disease. The molecular profiling results were validated in independent cohorts of patients with MPM using immunohistochemistry and multiplex immunohistochemistry.

Results: We revealed that BAP1 deficiency enriches immune-associated pathways in MPM, leading to increased mRNA signatures of interferon alfa/gamma response, activating dendritic cells, immune checkpoint receptors, and T-cell inflammation. This finding was confirmed in independent patient cohorts, where MPM tumors with low BAP1 levels are associated with an inflammatory tumor immune microenvironment characterized by increased exhausted precursor T-cells and macrophages but decreased myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). In addition, BAP1low MPM cells are in close proximity to T cells and therefore can potentially be targeted with ICIs. Finally, we revealed that BAP1-proficient MPM is associated with a hyperactive mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and may benefit from treatment with MEK inhibitors (MEKis).

Conclusion: Our results suggest that BAP1 plays an immunomodulatory role in MPM and that BAP1-deficient MPM may benefit from immunotherapy, which merits further clinical investigation.