Melanoma dedifferentiation has been reported to be a state of cellular resistance to targeted therapies and immunotherapies as cancer cells revert to a more primitive cellular phenotype. Here, we show that, counterintuitively, the biopsies of patient tumors that responded to anti–programmed cell death 1 (anti–PD-1) therapy had decreased expression of melanocytic markers and increased neural crest markers, suggesting treatment-induced dedifferentiation. When modeling the effects in vitro, we documented that melanoma cell lines that were originally differentiated underwent a process of neural crest dedifferentiation when continuously exposed to IFN-γ, through global chromatin landscape changes that led to enrichment in specific hyperaccessible chromatin regions. The IFN-γ–induced dedifferentiation signature corresponded with improved outcomes in patients with melanoma, challenging the notion that neural crest dedifferentiation is entirely an adverse phenotype.
Yeon Joo Kim, Katherine M. Sheu, Jennifer Tsoi, Gabriel Abril-Rodriguez, Egmidio Medina, Catherine S. Grasso, Davis Y. Torrejon, Ameya S. Champhekar, Kevin Litchfield, Charles Swanton, Daniel E. Speiser, Philip O. Scumpia, Alexander Hoffmann, Thomas G. Graeber, Cristina Puig-Saus, Antoni Ribas