LUNG CANCER Using genomic analysis to ascertain loss of heterozygosity at the HLA locus in combination with tumour mutational burden (TMB) provided better prediction of response to immunotherapy compared with TMB alone.


June 22, 2020



  • TMB alone is not sufficiently reliable or accurate as a biomarker of response to ICIs in NSCLC.
  • TMB-based survival prediction is improved by using the HLA-corrected TMB algorithm (TMB in combination with loss of heterozygosity of HLA).
  • Notably, additional predictive and prognostic value of the HLA-corrected TMB is not limited to certain types of cance
  • The HLA-corrected TMB could be a new strategy for selecting patients who may benefit from immunotherapy.



Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have been shown to be beneficial for some patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, the underlying mechanisms mediating the limited response to ICIs remain unclear.

Patients and methods

We carried out whole-exome sequencing on 198 advanced NSCLC tumors that had been sampled before anti-programmed cell death 1 (anti-PD-1)/programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) therapy. Detailed clinical characteristics were collected on these patients. We designed a new method to estimate human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-corrected tumor mutation burden (TMB), a modification which considers the loss of heterozygosity of HLA from conventional TMB. We carried out external validation of our findings utilizing 89 NSCLC samples and 110 melanoma samples from two independent cohorts of immunotherapy-treated patients.


Homology-dependent recombination deficiency was identified in 37 patients (18.7%) and was associated with longer progression-free survival (PFS; P = 0.049). Using the HLA-corrected TMB, non-responders to ICIs were identified, despite having a high TMB (top 25%). Ten patients (21.3% of the high TMB group) were reclassified from the high TMB group into the low TMB group. The objective response rate (ORR), PFS, and overall survival (OS) were all lower in these patients compared with those of the high TMB group (ORR: 20% versus 59%, P = 0.0363; PFS: hazard ratio = 2.91, P = 0.007; OS: hazard ratio = 3.43, P = 0.004). Multivariate analyses showed that high HLA-corrected TMB was associated with a significant survival advantage (hazard ratio = 0.44, P = 0.015), whereas high conventional TMB was not associated with a survival advantage (hazard ratio = 0.63, P = 0.118). Applying this approach to the independent cohorts of 89 NSCLC patients and 110 melanoma patients, TMB-based survival prediction was significantly improved.


HLA-corrected TMB can reconcile the observed disparity in relationships between TMB and ICI responses, and is of predictive and prognostic value for ICI therapies.