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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Nature Communications, Volume 9, Issue 1, December 2018, Article number 3503.

The published version is available at Copyright © Wang et al.


Cancers infiltrated with T-cells are associated with a higher likelihood of response to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade. Counterintuitively, a correlation between epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related gene expression and T-cell infiltration has been observed across tumor types. Here we demonstrate, using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) urothelial cancer dataset, that although a gene expression-based measure of infiltrating T-cell abundance and EMT-related gene expression are positively correlated, these signatures convey disparate prognostic information. We further demonstrate that non-hematopoietic stromal cells are a major source of EMT-related gene expression in bulk urothelial cancer transcriptomes. Finally, using a cohort of patients with metastatic urothelial cancer treated with a PD-1 inhibitor, nivolumab, we demonstrate that in patients with T-cell infiltrated tumors, higher EMT/stroma-related gene expression is associated with lower response rates and shorter progression-free and overall survival. Together, our findings suggest a stroma-mediated source of immune resistance in urothelial cancer and provide rationale for co-targeting PD-1 and stromal elements.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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