Treatment of advanced BRAFV600-mutant melanoma using a BRAF inhibitor or its combination with a MEK inhibitor typically elicits partial responses. We compared the transcriptomes of patient-derived tumors regressing on MAPK inhibitor (MAPKi) therapy against MAPKi-induced temporal transcriptomic states in human melanoma cell lines or murine melanoma in immune-competent mice. Despite heterogeneous dynamics of clinical tumor regression, residual tumors displayed highly recurrent transcriptomic alterations and enriched processes, which were also observed in MAPKi-selected cell lines (implying tumor cell–intrinsic reprogramming) or in bulk mouse tumors (and the CD45-negative or CD45-positive fractions, implying tumor cell–intrinsic or stromal/ immune alterations, respectively). Tumor cell–intrinsic reprogramming attenuated MAPK dependency, while enhancing mesenchymal, angiogenic, and IFN-inflammatory features and growth/survival dependence on multi-RTKs and PD-L2. In the immune compartment, PD-L2 upregulation in CD11c+ immunocytes drove the loss of T-cell inflammation and promoted BRAFi resistance. Thus, residual melanoma early on MAPKi therapy already displays potentially exploitable adaptive transcriptomic, epigenomic, immune-regulomic alterations. SIGNIFICANCE: Incomplete MAPKi-induced melanoma regression results in transcriptome/methylome-wide reprogramming and MAPK-redundant escape. Although regressing/residual melanoma is highly T cell–inflamed, stromal adaptations, many of which are tumor cell–driven, could suppress/eliminate intratumoral T cells, reversing tumor regression. This catalog of recurrent alterations helps identify adaptations such as PD-L2 operative tumor cell intrinsically and/or extrinsically early on therapy.
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