Next generation immuno-oncology tumor profiling using a rapid, non-invasive, computational biophysics biomarker in early-stage breast cancer

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.


View the full publication In Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence here.