Early decrease of blood myeloid-derived suppressor cells during checkpoint inhibition is a favorable biomarker in metastatic melanoma

Andrea Gaißler, Jonas Bochem, Janine Spreuer, Shannon Ottmann, Alexander Martens, Teresa Amaral, Nikolaus Benjamin Wagner, Manfred Claassen, Friedegund Meier, Patrick Terheyden, Claus Garbe, Thomas Eigentler, Benjamin Weide, Graham Pawelec, Kilian Wistuba-Hamprecht*

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Background The need for reliable clinical biomarkers to predict which patients with melanoma will benefit from immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) remains unmet. Several different parameters have been considered in the past, including routine differential blood counts, T cell subset distribution patterns and quantification of peripheral myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), but none has yet achieved sufficient accuracy for clinical utility. Methods Here, we investigated potential cellular biomarkers from clinical routine blood counts as well as several myeloid and T cell subsets, using flow cytometry, in two independent cohorts of a total of 141 patients with stage IV M1c melanoma before and during ICB. Results Elevated baseline frequencies of monocytic MDSCs (M-MDSC) in the blood were confirmed to predict shorter overall survival (OS) (HR 2.086, p=0.030) and progression-free survival (HR 2.425, p=0.001) in the whole patient cohort. However, we identified a subgroup of patients with highly elevated baseline M-MDSC frequencies that fell below a defined cut-off during therapy and found that these patients had a longer OS that was similar to that of patients with low baseline M-MDSC frequencies. Importantly, patients with high M-MDSC frequencies exhibited a skewed baseline distribution of certain other immune cells but these did not influence patient survival, illustrating the paramount utility of MDSC assessment. Conclusion We confirmed that in general, highly elevated frequencies of peripheral M-MDSC are associated with poorer outcomes of ICB in metastatic melanoma. However, one reason for an imperfect correlation between high baseline MDSCs and outcome for individual patients may be the subgroup of patients identified here, with rapidly decreasing M-MDSCs on therapy, in whom the negative effect of high M-MDSC frequencies was lost. These findings might contribute to developing more reliable predictors of late-stage melanoma response to ICB at the individual patient level. A multifactorial model seeking such markers yielded only MDSC behavior and serum lactate dehydrogenase as predictors of treatment outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere006802
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 07.06.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
  • Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-19 Dermatology
  • 205-14 Haematology, Oncology


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