Key Points

  • Mutant TP53 MDS and sAML have altered regulation of select checkpoint molecules

  • Targeting the mir-34a-MYC-PDL1 circuit in TP53 mutant patients represents a novel therapeutic strategy

Somatic gene mutations are key determinants of outcome in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and secondary AML (sAML). In particular, patients with TP53 mutations represent a distinct molecular cohort with uniformly poor prognosis. The precise pathogenetic mechanisms underlying these inferior outcomes have not been delineated. Here we characterize the immunological features of the malignant clone and alterations in the immune microenvironment in TP53 mutant and wild type MDS and sAML patients. Notably, PDL1 expression is significantly increased in hematopoietic stem cells of TP53 mutant patients, which is associated with MYC upregulation and marked down-regulation of MYC's negative regulator miR-34a, a p53 transcription target. Notably, TP53 mutant patients display significantly reduced numbers of bone marrow infiltrating OX40+ cytotoxic T-cells and helper T-cells, as well as decreased ICOS+ and 4-1BB+ NK cells. Further, highly immunosuppressive regulatory T-cells (i.e., ICOSHigh/PD-1neg) and MDSCs (PD-1low) are expanded in TP53 mutant cases. Finally, a higher proportion of bone marrow infiltrating ICOSHigh/PD-1neg Tregs is a highly significant independent predictor of overall survival. We conclude the microenvironment of TP53 mutant MDS and sAML has an immune privileged, evasive phenotype that may be a primary driver of poor outcomes, and submit that immunomodulatory therapeutic strategies may offer a benefit for this molecularly-defined subpopulation.

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