The density and spatial tissue distribution of CD8+ and CD163+ immune cells predict response and outcome in melanoma patients receiving MAPK inhibitors.

Daniela Massi, Eliana Rulli, Mara Cossa, Barbara Valeri, Monica Rodolfo, Barbara Merelli, Francesco De Logu, Romina Nassini, Michele Del Vecchio, Lorenza Di Guardo, Roberta De Penni, Michele Guida, Vanna Chiarion Sileni, Anna Maria Di Giacomo, Marco Tucci, Marcella Occelli, Francesca Portelli, Viviana Vallacchi, Francesca Consoli, Pietro QuaglinoPaola Queirolo, Gianna Baroni, Fabrizio Carnevale-Schianca, Laura Cattaneo, Alessandro Minisini, Giuseppe Palmieri, Licia Rivoltini, Mario Mandalà, Italian Melanoma Intergroup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clinical response to MAPK inhibitors in metastatic melanoma patients is heterogeneous for reasons still needing to be elucidated. As the patient immune activity contributes to treatment clinical benefit, the pre-existing level of immunity at tumor site may provide biomarkers of disease outcome to therapy. Here we investigated whether assessing the density and spatial tissue distribution of key immune cells in the tumor microenvironment could identify patients predisposed to respond to MAPK inhibitors. Pretreatment tumor biopsies from a total of 213 patients (158 for the training set and 55 for the validation set) treated with BRAF or BRAF/MEK inhibitors within the Italian Melanoma Intergroup were stained with selected immune markers (CD8, CD163, β-catenin, PD-L1, PD-L2). Results, obtained by blinded immunohistochemical scoring and digital image analysis, were correlated with clinical response and outcome by multivariate logistic models on response to treatment and clinical outcome, adjusted for American Joint Committee on Cancer stage, performance status, lactate dehydrogenase and treatment received. Patients with high intratumoral, but not peritumoral, CD8 T cells and concomitantly low CD163 myeloid cells displayed higher probability of response (OR 9.91, 95% CI 2.23-44.0, p = 0.003) and longer overall survival (HR 0.34, 95% CI 0.16-0.72, p = 0.005) compared to those with intratumoral low CD8 T cells and high CD163 myeloid cells. The latter phenotype was instead associated with a shorter progression free survival (p = 0.010). In contrast, PD-L1 and PD-L2 did not correlate with clinical outcome while tumor β-catenin overexpression showed association with lower probability of response (OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.21-1.06, p = 0.068). Analysis of the spatially constrained distribution of CD8 and CD163 cells, representative of the opposite circuits of antitumor vs protumor immunity, respectively, may assist in identifying melanoma patients with improved response and better outcome upon treatment with MAPK inhibitors. These data underline the role of endogenous immune microenvironment in predisposing metastatic melanoma patients to benefit from therapies targeting driver-oncogenic pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308
Number of pages1
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Melanoma prognosis
  • Microenvironment
  • Myeloid cells
  • T lymphocytes


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