Background: Immuno-oncology (IO) therapies targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis, such as immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) antibodies, have emerged as promising treatments for early-stage breast cancer (ESBC). Despite immunotherapy’s clinical significance, the number of benefiting patients remains small, and the therapy can prompt severe immune-related events. Current pathologic and transcriptomic predictions of IO response are limited in terms of accuracy and rely on single-site biopsies, which cannot fully account for tumor heterogeneity. In addition, transcriptomic analyses are costly and time-consuming. We therefore constructed a computational biomarker coupling biophysical simulations and artificial intelligence-based tissue segmentation of dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRIs), enabling IO response prediction across the entire tumor.
Methods: By analyzing both single-cell and whole-tissue RNA-seq data from non-IO-treated ESBC patients, we associated gene expression levels of the PD-1/PD-L1 axis with local tumor biology. PD-L1 expression was then linked to biophysical features derived from DCE-MRIs to generate spatially- and temporally-resolved atlases (virtual tumors) of tumor biology, as well as the TumorIO biomarker of IO response. We quantified TumorIO within patient virtual tumors (n = 63) using integrative modeling to train and develop a corresponding TumorIO Score.
Results: We validated the TumorIO biomarker and TumorIO Score in a small, independent cohort of IO-treated patients (n = 17) and correctly predicted pathologic complete response (pCR) in 15/17 individuals (88.2% accuracy), comprising 10/12 in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and 5/5 in HR+/HER2- tumors. We applied the TumorIO Score in a virtual clinical trial (n = 292) simulating ICI administration in an IO-naïve cohort that underwent standard chemotherapy. Using this approach, we predicted pCR rates of 67.1% for TNBC and 17.9% for HR+/HER2- tumors with addition of IO therapy; comparing favorably to empiric pCR rates derived from published trials utilizing ICI in both cancer subtypes.
Conclusion: The TumorIO biomarker and TumorIO Score represent a next generation approach using integrative biophysical analysis to assess cancer responsiveness to immunotherapy. This computational biomarker performs as well as PD-L1 transcript levels in identifying a patient’s likelihood of pCR following anti-PD-1 IO therapy. The TumorIO biomarker allows for rapid IO profiling of tumors and may confer high clinical decision impact to further enable personalized oncologic care.