Background: Deep understanding of the complexity and diversity of the tumor immune microenvironment (TIME) and its influence on response to therapy is needed to improve the ability to predict, monitor and guide immunotherapeutic responsiveness. Among different cell types in the MM-TIME, granulocytic MDSCs (G-MDSCs) have a prominent role in promoting tumor growth and inducing immune suppression; however, their identification and monitoring is imprecise because the phenotypic profile of MDSCs in the MM-TIME is not well-established.

Aim: To provide the detailed phenotypic profile of G-MDSCs based on the immune suppressive potential, gene regulatory network and clinical significance of distinct granulocytic subsets in the MM-TIME.

Methods: First, we used multidimensional flow cytometry (MFC) to evaluate the preestablished phenotype of G-MDSCs in bone marrow (BM) samples from controls (n=4) and MM patients (n=5). We then used principal component analysis (PCA) to unbiasedly identify different granulocytic subsets in the MM-TIME, and FACS for in vitro experiments to determine their immune suppressive potential (n=9) and for RNAseq to analyze the molecular profile of G-MDSCs in MM (n=5) vs controls (n=5). Subsequently, the clinical significance of the different granulocytic subsets was investigated by comparing their numbers at diagnosis, in MM patients (n=124) achieving MRD-negativity vs MRD-positivity after treatment with VRD induction (x6) followed by autologous transplant and VRD consolidation (x2) (GEM2012MENOS65 clinical trial).

Results: In humans, G-MDSCs have been defined as a unique cluster displaying a CD11b-, CD14-, CD15+, CD33+ and HLADR- phenotype, comprising 1% of total BM nucleated cells in healthy individuals and approximately 25% in MM patients. However, we found that the percentage of cells with a CD11b-CD14-CD15+CD33+HLADR- phenotype was similar in the BM of controls and MM patients (median of 8% in both, P>.99). Since these cells were not expanded in MM and represented only 24% of total neutrophils, we next used MFC and PCA to unbiasedly identify other cell clusters within neutrophils. Accordingly, 3 major subsets were identified in neutrophils from controls and MM patients, based on homogeneous CD14-CD15+CD33+HLADR- expression but differential reactivity against CD11b, CD13 and CD16: CD11b-CD13lo/-CD16- (19% and 24%), CD11b+CD13lo/-CD16- (46% and 47%) and CD11b+CD13+CD16+ (35% and 29%). Afterwards, we used FACSorting to deplete or isolate individually, each of the 3 neutrophil subsets from the BM MM-TIME and determine its immune suppressive potential in 2 functional assays: 1) the proliferation rate of autologous T cells in presence of CD3/CD28 stimulatory beads and, 2) the cytotoxic potential of autologous T-cells against MM cells using a BCMAxCD3 bispecific antibody. Interestingly, we noted a significant decrease in T cell proliferation when these were stimulated in the presence of CD11b+CD13+CD16+ neutrophils (0.5-fold, p =.03) but not the CD11b-CD13lo/-CD16- and CD11b+CD13lo/-CD16- subsets. In addition, we noted that the cytotoxic potential of T cells engaged by the BCMAxCD3 bispecific antibody significantly increased with the depletion of CD11b+CD13lo/-CD16- and CD11b+CD13+CD16+ subsets (3-fold and 4-fold, respectively; p ≤.04) but not CD11b-CD13lo/-CD16- neutrophils. Furthermore, RNAseq of the 3 subsets in controls and MM patients revealed that genes related with the IL-4, IL-10 and IL-13 immunosuppressive pathways were specifically upregulated in the CD11b+CD13+CD16+ subset. Finally, based on the surrogacy between the achievement of MRD-negativity and prolonged survival, we compared the distribution of the 3 granulocytic subsets in the BM-TIME at diagnosis and observed that patients reaching MRD-negativity (n=56) displayed significantly lower percentages of total neutrophils (46% vs 52%, p =.002), particularly of the CD11b+CD13lo/-CD16- (11% vs 15%, p =.003) and CD11b+CD13+CD16+ (31% vs 35%, p =.07) subsets vs MRD-positive cases (n=68).

Conclusions: We have determined the correlation between the phenotypic, molecular and immunosuppressive potential of unique granulocytic subsets. Thus, we have identified optimal markers for monitoring G-MDCSs in patients with MM (ie. CD11b, CD13, CD16) and unveiled that, in contrast to previous findings, the more mature granulocytes are the only stages with immunosuppressive potential.

Disclosures

Puig:Celgene: Honoraria, Research Funding; Janssen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Takeda: Consultancy, Honoraria. Martinez Lopez:Celgene: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Bristol Myers Squibb: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Novartis: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau; Janssen: Research Funding, Speakers Bureau. Oriol:Celgene: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Speakers Bureau; Janssen: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Speakers Bureau; Takeda: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Speakers Bureau; Amgen: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Speakers Bureau. Rios:Amgen, Celgene, Janssen, and Takeda: Consultancy. Rosinol:Janssen, Celgene, Amgen, Takeda: Honoraria. Mateos:Abbvie: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; GSK: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Amgen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Amgen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Consultancy, Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Takeda: Consultancy, Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Janssen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; GSK: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Lahuerta:Janssen: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Amgen: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Takeda: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Bladé:Celgene: Honoraria; Janssen: Honoraria; Amgen: Honoraria. San-Miguel:Janssen: Honoraria; Celgene: Honoraria; Amgen: Honoraria; BMS: Honoraria; Novartis: Honoraria; Sanofi: Honoraria; Roche: Honoraria.

Author notes

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Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.