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The Efficacy Of Anti-PD-L1 Treatment In Melanoma Is Associated With The Expression Of The ECM Molecule EMILIN2

Albina Fejza, Maurizio Polano, Lucrezia Camicia, Evelina Poletto, Greta Carobolante, Giuseppe Toffoli, Maurizio Mongiat, Eva Andreuzzi

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The use of immune checkpoint inhibitors has revolutionized the treatment of melanoma patients, leading to remarkable improvements in the cure. However, to ensure a safe and effective treatment, there is the need to develop markers to identify the patients that would most likely respond to the therapies. The microenvironment is gaining attention in this context, since it can regulate both the immunotherapy efficacyand angiogenesis, which is known to be affected by treatment. Here, we investigated the putative role of the ECM molecule EMILIN-2, a tumor suppressive and pro-angiogenic molecule. We verified that the EMILIN2 expression is variable among melanoma patients and is associated with the response to PD-L1 inhibitors. Consistently, in preclinical settings,the absence of EMILIN-2 is associated with higher PD-L1 expression and increased immunotherapy efficacy. We verified that EMILIN-2 modulates PD-L1 expression in melanoma cells through indirect immune-dependent mechanisms. Notably, upon PD-L1 blockage, Emilin2−/− mice displayed improved intra-tumoral vessel normalization and decreased tumor hypoxia. Finally, we provide evidence indicating that the inclusion of EMILIN2 in a number of gene expression signatures improves their predictive potential, a further indication that the analysis of this molecule may be key for the development of new markers to predict immunotherapy efficacy.