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BACKGROUND: An improved understanding of which gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (GOA) patients respond to both chemotherapy and immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) is needed. We investigated the predictive role and underlying biology of a 44-gene DNA damage immune response (DDIR) signature in patients with advanced GOA. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Transcriptional profiling was carried out on pretreatment tissue from 252 GOA patients treated with platinum-based chemotherapy (three dose levels) within the randomized phase III GO2 trial. Cross-validation was carried out in two independent GOA cohorts with transcriptional profiling, immune cell immunohistochemistry and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) (n = 430). RESULTS: In the GO2 trial, DDIR-positive tumours had a greater radiological response (51.7% versus 28.5%, P = 0.022) and improved overall survival in a dose-dependent manner (P = 0.028). DDIR positivity was associated with a pretreatment inflamed tumour microenvironment (TME) and increased expression of biomarkers associated with ICI response such as CD274 (programmed death-ligand 1, PD-L1) and a microsatellite instability RNA signature. Consensus pathway analysis identified EGFR as a potential key determinant of the DDIR signature. EGFR amplification was associated with DDIR negativity and an immune cold TME. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate the importance of the GOA TME in chemotherapy response, its relationship to DNA damage repair and EGFR as a targetable driver of an immune cold TME. Chemotherapy-sensitive inflamed GOAs could benefit from ICI delivered in combination with standard chemotherapy. Combining EGFR inhibitors and ICIs warrants further investigation in patients with EGFR-amplified tumours.

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DNA damage immune response, epidermal growth factor receptor, gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma, immune checkpoint inhibitors, tumour microenvironment