Article Text

Download PDFPDF

888 Identification of tumor-intrinsic drivers of immune exclusion in acral melanoma
  1. Ryan C Augustin1,
  2. Sarah Brodeur1,
  3. Aofei Li2,
  4. Marion Joy3,
  5. Maureen Lyons3,
  6. Mary Pham3,
  7. Peter C Lucas4,
  8. Katelyn Smith3,
  9. Cindy Sander1,
  10. Brian Isett3,
  11. Diwakar Davar3,
  12. Yana G Najjar3,
  13. Hassane Zarour1,
  14. John M Kirkwood1,
  15. Jason J Luke3 and
  16. Riyue Bao3
  1. 1University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  2. 2University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  3. 3UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  4. 4NRG Oncology/NSABP and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC) preprint. The copyright holder for this preprint are the authors/funders, who have granted JITC permission to display the preprint. All rights reserved. No reuse allowed without permission.


Background Acral melanoma (AM) is a rare cancer with distinct genotypic and phenotypic characteristics as compared to cutaneous melanoma (CM). While UV radiation-induced CM exhibits a relatively high response rate to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), the response in AM is poor.1 Tumor-intrinsic mechanisms of immune exclusion have been identified in many cancers but less studied in AM.2 3

Methods We characterized clinically annotated tumors from patients diagnosed with AM at our institution in correlation with ICI response using whole transcriptome RNAseq, whole exome sequencing, CD8 immunohistochemistry, and multispectral immunofluorescence imaging. A defined interferon-γ-associated T cell-inflamed gene signature was used to categorize tumors into non-T cell-inflamed and T cell-inflamed phenotypes. In combination with AM tumors from two published studies, we systematically assessed the immune landscape of AM and detected differential gene expression and pathway activation in a non-T cell-inflamed tumor microenvironment (TME). Two single-cell(sc) RNAseq AM cohorts and 11 bulk RNAseq cohorts of various tumor types from 891 patients were used for independent validation on pathways associated with lack of ICI response.

Results A majority of AM tumors showed low expression of the T cell-inflamed gene signature (72.5%), including 23.9% grouped as non-T cell-inflamed. Patients of low CD3+CD8+PD1+ intratumoral T cell density showed poor prognosis. We identified 11 oncogenic pathways significantly upregulated in non-T cell-inflamed relative to T cell-inflamed TME shared across all three acral cohorts (MYC, HGF, MITF, VEGF, EGFR, SP1, ERBB2, TFEB, SREBF1, SOX2, and CCND1). scRNAseq analysis revealed that tumor cell-expressing pathway scores were significantly higher in low vs high T cell-infiltrated AM tumors. We further demonstrated that the 11 pathways were enriched in ICI non-responders compared to responders across cancers, including acral melanoma (figure 1A), cutaneous melanoma (figure 1B), triple-negative breast cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer. Pathway activation was associated with low expression of interferon stimulated genes, suggesting suppression of antigen presentation. Across the 11 pathways, fatty acid synthase and CXCL8 were unifying downstream target molecules suggesting potential nodes for therapeutic intervention.

Conclusions A unique set of pathways is associated with immune exclusion and ICI resistance in AM. These data may inform immunotherapy combinations for immediate clinical translation.


  1. Nakamura Y, Namikawa K, Yoshino K, et al. Anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitor therapy in acral melanoma: a multicenter study of 193 Japanese patients. Ann Oncol. 2020;31(9):1198–1206. doi:10.1016/j.annonc.2020.05.031

  2. Riaz N, Havel JJ, Makarov V, et al. Tumor and Microenvironment Evolution during Immunotherapy with Nivolumab. Cell. 2017;171(4):934–949.e16. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2017.09.028

  3. Liu D, Schilling B, Liu D, et al. Integrative molecular and clinical modeling of clinical outcomes to PD1 blockade in patients with metastatic melanoma. Nat Med. 2019;25(12):1916–1927. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0654-5

Ethics Approval This study was approved by the University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board (Protocol No. 20090109).

Abstract 888 Figure 1

(A) Comparison of 11 pathways in acral melanoma (AM) samples from patients who showed clinical benefit (CB) or not (NCB) to ICI (Hillman Cancer Center (HCC) AM cohort, n = 14 shown). (B) Comparison of 11 pathways in cutaneous melanoma (CM) samples from patients who received ICI [2,3]. * P <0.05 after FDR adjustment for multiple comparisons.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.