Circulating inflammatory proteins associate with response to immune checkpoint inhibition therapy in patients with advanced melanoma

Niccolò Rossi, Karla A Lee, Maria V Bermudez, Alessia Visconti, Andrew Maltez Thomas, Laura A Bolte, Johannes R Björk, Laura Kist de Ruijter, Julia Newton-Bishop, Mark Harland, Heather M Shaw, Mark Harries, Joseph Sacco, Ruth Board, Paul Lorigan, Elisabeth G E de Vries, Nicola Segata, Leonie Taams, Sophie Papa, Tim D SpectorPaul Nathan, Rinse K Weersma, Geke A P Hospers, Rudolf S N Fehrmann, Veronique Bataille, Mario Falchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Inflammation can modulate tumour growth and progression, and influence clinical response to treatment. We investigated the potential of circulating inflammatory proteins for response stratification of immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy for advanced melanoma.

METHODS: Study subjects were 87 patients with unresectable stage III or IV cutaneous melanoma from the multiple centres across the United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands (NL) who received ipilimumab, nivolumab, or pembrolizumab, or a combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab. Serum samples were collected before and during ICI therapy at follow-up visits scheduled every third week over a 12-week period. We performed targeted quantification of 92 proteins involved in inflammation and tested for association of their pre-treatment and on-treatment levels, as well as longitudinal changes, with overall response rate, progression-free survival, and overall survival.

FINDINGS: We observed consistently higher pre-treatment levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and monocyte chemotactic protein 2 (MCP-2), in non-responders compared to responders (meta-analysis p=3.31 × 10-4, 2.29 × 10-4, and 1.02 × 10-3, respectively). Patients' stratification according to the median value of IL-6, HGF, and MCP-2 highlighted a cumulative negative effect of pre-treatment levels of the three proteins on response (p=1.13 × 10-2), with overall response rate among patients presenting with combined elevated IL-6, HGF, and MCP-2 levels being three-fold lower (26.7%) compared to patients with none of the three proteins elevated (80.0%, p=9.22 × 10-3). Longitudinal data analysis showed that on-treatment changes in circulating inflammatory proteins are not correlated with response.

INTERPRETATION: Our findings are in line with an increasing body of evidence that the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 can influence response to ICI in advanced melanoma, and further support a role of circulating HGF and MCP-2 levels as prognostic biomarkers as suggested by previous smaller studies. Inflammatory proteins may serve as predictive biomarkers of ICI response and valuable targets for combination therapy.

FUNDING: This work was supported by the Seerave Foundation and Dutch Cancer Society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104235
Pages (from-to)104235
Early online date22 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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