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      Pembrolizumab for the Treatment of Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer

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          Abstract

          We assessed the efficacy and safety of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) inhibition with pembrolizumab in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer enrolled in a phase 1 study. We also sought to define and validate an expression level of the PD-1 ligand 1 (PD-L1) that is associated with the likelihood of clinical benefit. We assigned 495 patients receiving pembrolizumab (at a dose of either 2 mg or 10 mg per kilogram of body weight every 3 weeks or 10 mg per kilogram every 2 weeks) to either a training group (182 patients) or a validation group (313 patients). We assessed PD-L1 expression in tumor samples using immunohistochemical analysis, with results reported as the percentage of neoplastic cells with staining for membranous PD-L1 (proportion score). Response was assessed every 9 weeks by central review. Common side effects that were attributed to pembrolizumab were fatigue, pruritus, and decreased appetite, with no clear difference according to dose or schedule. Among all the patients, the objective response rate was 19.4%, and the median duration of response was 12.5 months. The median duration of progression-free survival was 3.7 months, and the median duration of overall survival was 12.0 months. PD-L1 expression in at least 50% of tumor cells was selected as the cutoff from the training group. Among patients with a proportion score of at least 50% in the validation group, the response rate was 45.2%. Among all the patients with a proportion score of at least 50%, median progression-free survival was 6.3 months; median overall survival was not reached. Pembrolizumab had an acceptable side-effect profile and showed antitumor activity in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. PD-L1 expression in at least 50% of tumor cells correlated with improved efficacy of pembrolizumab. (Funded by Merck; KEYNOTE-001 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01295827.).

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          The blockade of immune checkpoints in cancer immunotherapy.

          Among the most promising approaches to activating therapeutic antitumour immunity is the blockade of immune checkpoints. Immune checkpoints refer to a plethora of inhibitory pathways hardwired into the immune system that are crucial for maintaining self-tolerance and modulating the duration and amplitude of physiological immune responses in peripheral tissues in order to minimize collateral tissue damage. It is now clear that tumours co-opt certain immune-checkpoint pathways as a major mechanism of immune resistance, particularly against T cells that are specific for tumour antigens. Because many of the immune checkpoints are initiated by ligand-receptor interactions, they can be readily blocked by antibodies or modulated by recombinant forms of ligands or receptors. Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA4) antibodies were the first of this class of immunotherapeutics to achieve US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Preliminary clinical findings with blockers of additional immune-checkpoint proteins, such as programmed cell death protein 1 (PD1), indicate broad and diverse opportunities to enhance antitumour immunity with the potential to produce durable clinical responses.
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            Plasma cells from multiple myeloma patients express B7-H1 (PD-L1) and increase expression after stimulation with IFN-{gamma} and TLR ligands via a MyD88-, TRAF6-, and MEK-dependent pathway.

            Multiple myeloma (MM) cells inhibit certain T-cell functions. We examined the expression of B7-H1 (PD-L1), a B7-related protein that inhibits T-cell responses, in CD138-purified plasma cells isolated from MM patients, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance patients, and healthy donors. We observed that B7-H1 was expressed in most MM plasma cells, but not cells isolated from monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance or healthy donors. This expression was increased or induced by IFN-gamma and Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands in isolated MM plasma cells. Blocking the MEK/ERK pathway inhibited IFN-gamma-mediated and TLR-mediated expression of B7-H1. Inhibition of the MyD88 and TRAF6 adaptor proteins of the TLR pathway blocked not only B7-H1 expression induced by TLR ligands but also that mediated by IFN-gamma. IFN-gamma-induced STAT1 activation, via MEK/ERK and MyD88/TRAF6, and inhibition of STAT1 reduced B7-H1 expression. MM plasma cells stimulated with IFN-gamma or TLR ligands inhibited cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) generation and this immunosuppressive effect was inhibited by preincubation with an anti-B7-H1 antibody, the UO126 MEK inhibitor, or by transfection of a dominant-negative mutant of MyD88. Thus, B7-H1 expression by MM cells represents a possible immune escape mechanism that could be targeted therapeutically through inhibition of MyD88/TRAF6 and MEK/ERK/STAT1.
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              PD-1 and PD-L1 expression in molecularly selected non-small-cell lung cancer patients

              Background: Agents targeting programmed death-1 receptor (PD-1) and its ligand (PD-L1) are showing promising results in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is unknown whether PD-1/PD-L1 are differently expressed in oncogene-addicted NSCLC. Methods: We analysed a cohort of 125 NSCLC patients, including 56 EGFR mutated, 29 KRAS mutated, 10 ALK translocated and 30 EGFR/KRAS/ALK wild type. PD-L1 and PD-1 expression were assessed by immunohistochemistry. All cases with moderate or strong staining (2+/3+) in >5% of tumour cells were considered as positive. Results: PD-1 positive (+) was significantly associated with current smoking status (P=0.02) and with the presence of KRAS mutations (P=0.006), whereas PD-L1+ was significantly associated to adenocarcinoma histology (P=0.005) and with presence of EGFR mutations (P=0.001). In patients treated with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (N=95), sensitivity to gefitinib or erlotinib was higher in PD-L1+ vs PD-L1 negative in terms of the response rate (RR: P=0.01) time to progression (TTP: P<0.0001) and survival (OS: P=0.09), with no difference in PD1+ vs PD-1 negative. In the subset of 54 EGFR mutated patients, TTP was significantly longer in PD-L1+ than in PD-L1 negative (P=0.01). Conclusions: PD-1 and PD-L1 are differentially expressed in oncogene-addicted NSCLC supporting further investigation of specific checkpoint inhibitors in combination with targeted therapies.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                May 21 2015
                May 21 2015
                : 372
                : 21
                : 2018-2028
                Article
                10.1056/NEJMoa1501824
                25891174
                5a581cdb-bcc8-4bb6-ac06-f7e32afdf0c2
                © 2015
                History

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