Sequence alterations in microsatellites and an elevated mutational burden are observed in 20% of gastric cancers and associated with clinical response to anti– PD-1 antibodies. However, 50% of microsatellite instability–high (MSI-H) cancers are intrinsically resistant to PD-1 therapies. We conducted a phase II trial of pembrolizumab in patients with advanced MSI-H gastric cancer and included serial and multi-region tissue samples in addition to serial peripheral blood analyses. The number of whole-exome sequencing (WES)–derived nonsynonymous mutations correlated with antitumor activity and prolonged progression-free survival (PFS). Coupling WES to single-cell RNA sequencing, we identified dynamic tumor evolution with greater on-treatment collapse of mutational architecture in responders. Diverse T-cell receptor repertoire was associated with longer PFS to pembrolizumab. In addition, an increase in PD-1+ CD8+ T cells correlated with durable clinical benefit. Our findings highlight the genomic, immunologic, and clinical outcome heterogeneity within MSI-H gastric cancer and may inform development of strategies to enhance responsiveness. Significance: This study highlights response heterogeneity within MSI-H gastric cancer treated with pembrolizumab monotherapy and underscores the potential for extended baseline and early on-treatment biomarker analyses to identify responders. The observed markers of intrinsic resistance have implications for patient stratification to inform novel combinations among patients with intrinsically resistant features.
ASJC Scopus subject areas