Resistance to PD-1 Blockade


Approximately 75% of objective responses to anti–programmed death 1 (PD-1) therapy in patients with melanoma are durable, lasting for years, but delayed relapses have been noted long after initial objective tumor regression despite continuous therapy. Mechanisms of immune escape in this context are unknown.


We analyzed biopsy samples from paired baseline and relapsing lesions in four patients with metastatic melanoma who had had an initial objective tumor regression in response to anti–PD-1 therapy (pembrolizumab) followed by disease progression months to years later.


Whole-exome sequencing detected clonal selection and outgrowth of the acquired resistant tumors and, in two of the four patients, revealed resistance-associated loss-of-function mutations in the genes encoding interferon-receptor–associated Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) or Janus kinase 2 (JAK2), concurrent with deletion of the wild-type allele. A truncating mutation in the gene encoding the antigen-presenting protein beta-2-microglobulin (B2M) was identified in a third patient. JAK1 and JAK2 truncating mutations resulted in a lack of response to interferon gamma, including insensitivity to its antiproliferative effects on cancer cells. The B2M truncating mutation led to loss of surface expression of major histocompatibility complex class I.


In this study, acquired resistance to PD-1 blockade immunotherapy in patients with melanoma was associated with defects in the pathways involved in interferon-receptor signaling and in antigen presentation. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others.)

Full text link

dabrafenib plus trametinib



Dabrafenib plus trametinib improves clinical outcomes in BRAFV600-mutant metastatic melanoma without brain metastases; however, the activity of dabrafenib plus trametinib has not been studied in active melanoma brain metastases. Here, we report results from the phase 2 COMBI-MB trial. Our aim was to build on the current body of evidence of targeted therapy in melanoma brain metastases through an evaluation of dabrafenib plus trametinib in patients with BRAFV600-mutant melanoma brain metastases.


This ongoing, multicentre, multicohort, open-label, phase 2 study evaluated oral dabrafenib (150 mg twice per day) plus oral trametinib (2 mg once per day) in four patient cohorts with melanoma brain metastases enrolled from 32 hospitals and institutions in Europe, North America, and Australia: (A) BRAFV600E-positive, asymptomatic melanoma brain metastases, with no previous local brain therapy, and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status of 0 or 1; (B) BRAFV600E-positive, asymptomatic melanoma brain metastases, with previous local brain therapy, and an ECOG performance status of 0 or 1; (C) BRAFV600D/K/R-positive, asymptomatic melanoma brain metastases, with or without previous local brain therapy, and an ECOG performance status of 0 or 1; and (D) BRAFV600D/E/K/R-positive, symptomatic melanoma brain metastases, with or without previous local brain therapy, and an ECOG performance status of 0, 1, or 2. The primary endpoint was investigator-assessed intracranial response in cohort A in the all-treated-patients population. Secondary endpoints included intracranial response in cohorts B, C, and D. This study is registered with, number NCT02039947.


Between Feb 28, 2014, and Aug 5, 2016, 125 patients were enrolled in the study: 76 patients in cohort A; 16 patients in cohort B; 16 patients in cohort C; and 17 patients in cohort D. At the data cutoff (Nov 28, 2016) after a median follow-up of 8·5 months (IQR 5·5–14·0), 44 (58%; 95% CI 46–69) of 76 patients in cohort A achieved an intracranial response. Intracranial response by investigator assessment was also achieved in nine (56%; 95% CI 30–80) of 16 patients in cohort B, seven (44%; 20–70) of 16 patients in cohort C, and ten (59%; 33–82) of 17 patients in cohort D. The most common serious adverse events related to study treatment were pyrexia for dabrafenib (eight [6%] of 125 patients) and decreased ejection fraction (five [4%]) for trametinib. The most common grade 3 or worse adverse events, regardless of study drug relationship, were pyrexia (four [3%] of 125) and headache (three [2%]).


Dabrafenib plus trametinib was active with a manageable safety profile in this melanoma population that was consistent with previous dabrafenib plus trametinib studies in patients with BRAFV600-mutant melanoma without brain metastases, but the median duration of response was relatively short. These results provide evidence of clinical benefit with dabrafenib plus trametinib and support the need for additional research to further improve outcomes in patients with melanoma brain metastases.