KEAP1/NFE2L2 Mutations of Liquid Biopsy as Prognostic Biomarkers in Patients With Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Results From Two Multicenter, Randomized Clinical Trials

Hongyuan Zhu, Daipeng Xie, Yunfang Yu, Lintong Yao, Bin Xu, Luyu Huang, Shaowei Wu, Fasheng Li, Yating Zheng, Xinyi Liu, Wenzhuan Xie, Mengli Huang, Hao Li, Shaopeng Zheng, Dongkun Zhang, Guibin Qiao, Lawrence W.C. Chan, Haiyu Zhou

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Purpose: The KEAP1-NFE2L2 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1)-Nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (NFE2L2)) mutations are associated with resistance to chemotherapy or immunotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Conversely, it has been reported that NFE2L2 mutations potentiate improved clinical outcome with immunotherapy. However, therapeutic benefits for patients with KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations remain unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between KEAP1/NFE2L2 and NSCLC prognosis, and to explore whether immunotherapy can improve prognosis in populations with KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations. Experimental Design: The impact of KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations on survival outcomes in NSCLC patients received immunotherapy and chemotherapy was verified in the randomized phase II/III POPLAR/OAK trials (blood-based sequencing, bNGS cohort, POPLAR (n = 211) and OAK (n = 642)). The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) NSCLC cohort (n=998) and an in-house Chinese NSCLC cohort (n=733) was used For the analysis of immune-related markers. Results: Compared with KEAP1/NFE2L2 wild-type, patients with KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations were significantly associated with poorer overall survival (OS, HR = 1.97, 95% CI 1.48–2.63, P < 0.001) on atezolizumab and docetaxel (HR = 1.66, 95% CI 1.28–2.16, P < 0.001). In KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutant group, there was no significant difference in median OS between atezolizumab and docetaxel (HR 0.74, 95% CI 0.53–1.03, P = 0.07). NFE2L2/KEAP1 mutations were significantly associated with higher TMB values and PD-L1 expression in the OAK/POPLAR and in-house Chinese NSCLC cohorts. GSEA revealed that KEAP1/NFE2L2mutant subgroup was associated with deficient infiltration of CD4+ T cells, NK T cells and natural Treg cells, and lower expression of DNA damage response genes in TCGA NSCLC cohort. Conclusions: Our study revealed that patients with KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations have a worse prognosis than wild-type patients, both on immunotherapy and chemotherapy. In addition, in patients with KEAP1/NFE2L2 mutations, immunotherapy did not significantly improve prognosis compared to chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number659200
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021


  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • KEAP1/NFE2L2
  • non-small cell lung cancer
  • prognostic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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