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      Closed system RT-qPCR as a potential companion diagnostic test for immunotherapy outcome in metastatic melanoma

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          In melanoma, there is no companion diagnostic test to predict response to programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) axis immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy. In the adjuvant setting, only one in five patients may benefit from ICI, so a biomarker is needed to select those that may or may not benefit. Here, we test a new 4-gene multiplex immunotherapy panel with research use only (RUO) prototype mRNA expression profile on the GeneXpert closed system using real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) for association with clinical benefit after treatment with ICI therapy in metastatic melanoma patients.


          Pretreatment formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue sections from melanoma patients treated with anti-PD-1 therapy (pembrolizumab, nivolumab, or ipilimumab plus nivolumab) between 2011 and 17 were selected from the Yale Pathology archives. FFPE sections were macrodissected to enrich for tumor for quantitative assessment of CD274 (PD-L1), PDCD1LG2 (PD-L2), CD8A, and IRF1 by RT-qPCR multiplex mRNA panel. Multiplex panel transcript levels were correlated with clinical benefit (complete response [CR], partial response [PR], stable disease [SD]); disease outcomes (progression-free survival [PFS] and overall survival [OS]); and protein levels assessed by quantitative immunofluorescence (QIF).


          Transcript levels were significantly higher in responders (CR/PR/SD) than in nonresponders (PD) for CD8A ( p = 0.0001) and IRF1 ( p = 0.0019). PFS was strongly associated with high CD274 ( p = 0.0046), PDCD1LG2 ( p = 0.0039), CD8A ( p = 0.0002), and IRF1 ( p = 0.0030) mRNA expression. Similar associations were observed for OS with high CD274 ( p = 0.0004), CD8A ( p = 0.0030), and IRF1 ( p = 0.0096) mRNA expression. Multivariate analyses revealed significant PFS and OS associations with immunotherapy panel markers independent of baseline variables. Exploratory analyses revealed a novel significant association of high combined CD274 & PDCD1LG2 (L1/L2) transcript expression with PFS ( p < 0.0001) and OS ( p = 0.0011), which remained significant at a multivariate level for both PFS (HR = 0.31) and OS (HR = 0.39).


          Individual immunotherapy panel markers CD274, PDCD1LG2, CD8A, IRF1 and a combined L1/L2 mRNA levels show promising associations with melanoma immunotherapy outcome. The turnaround time of the test (2 h) and easy standardization of the platform makes this an attractive approach for further study in the search for predictive biomarkers for ICI.

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          Safety and activity of anti-PD-L1 antibody in patients with advanced cancer.

          Programmed death 1 (PD-1) protein, a T-cell coinhibitory receptor, and one of its ligands, PD-L1, play a pivotal role in the ability of tumor cells to evade the host's immune system. Blockade of interactions between PD-1 and PD-L1 enhances immune function in vitro and mediates antitumor activity in preclinical models. In this multicenter phase 1 trial, we administered intravenous anti-PD-L1 antibody (at escalating doses ranging from 0.3 to 10 mg per kilogram of body weight) to patients with selected advanced cancers. Anti-PD-L1 antibody was administered every 14 days in 6-week cycles for up to 16 cycles or until the patient had a complete response or confirmed disease progression. As of February 24, 2012, a total of 207 patients--75 with non-small-cell lung cancer, 55 with melanoma, 18 with colorectal cancer, 17 with renal-cell cancer, 17 with ovarian cancer, 14 with pancreatic cancer, 7 with gastric cancer, and 4 with breast cancer--had received anti-PD-L1 antibody. The median duration of therapy was 12 weeks (range, 2 to 111). Grade 3 or 4 toxic effects that investigators considered to be related to treatment occurred in 9% of patients. Among patients with a response that could be evaluated, an objective response (a complete or partial response) was observed in 9 of 52 patients with melanoma, 2 of 17 with renal-cell cancer, 5 of 49 with non-small-cell lung cancer, and 1 of 17 with ovarian cancer. Responses lasted for 1 year or more in 8 of 16 patients with at least 1 year of follow-up. Antibody-mediated blockade of PD-L1 induced durable tumor regression (objective response rate of 6 to 17%) and prolonged stabilization of disease (rates of 12 to 41% at 24 weeks) in patients with advanced cancers, including non-small-cell lung cancer, melanoma, and renal-cell cancer. (Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and others; number, NCT00729664.).
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            Combined Nivolumab and Ipilimumab or Monotherapy in Untreated Melanoma.

            Nivolumab (a programmed death 1 [PD-1] checkpoint inhibitor) and ipilimumab (a cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 [CTLA-4] checkpoint inhibitor) have been shown to have complementary activity in metastatic melanoma. In this randomized, double-blind, phase 3 study, nivolumab alone or nivolumab plus ipilimumab was compared with ipilimumab alone in patients with metastatic melanoma. We assigned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, 945 previously untreated patients with unresectable stage III or IV melanoma to nivolumab alone, nivolumab plus ipilimumab, or ipilimumab alone. Progression-free survival and overall survival were coprimary end points. Results regarding progression-free survival are presented here. The median progression-free survival was 11.5 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.9 to 16.7) with nivolumab plus ipilimumab, as compared with 2.9 months (95% CI, 2.8 to 3.4) with ipilimumab (hazard ratio for death or disease progression, 0.42; 99.5% CI, 0.31 to 0.57; P<0.001), and 6.9 months (95% CI, 4.3 to 9.5) with nivolumab (hazard ratio for the comparison with ipilimumab, 0.57; 99.5% CI, 0.43 to 0.76; P<0.001). In patients with tumors positive for the PD-1 ligand (PD-L1), the median progression-free survival was 14.0 months in the nivolumab-plus-ipilimumab group and in the nivolumab group, but in patients with PD-L1-negative tumors, progression-free survival was longer with the combination therapy than with nivolumab alone (11.2 months [95% CI, 8.0 to not reached] vs. 5.3 months [95% CI, 2.8 to 7.1]). Treatment-related adverse events of grade 3 or 4 occurred in 16.3% of the patients in the nivolumab group, 55.0% of those in the nivolumab-plus-ipilimumab group, and 27.3% of those in the ipilimumab group. Among previously untreated patients with metastatic melanoma, nivolumab alone or combined with ipilimumab resulted in significantly longer progression-free survival than ipilimumab alone. In patients with PD-L1-negative tumors, the combination of PD-1 and CTLA-4 blockade was more effective than either agent alone. (Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb; CheckMate 067 number, NCT01844505.).
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              Pembrolizumab for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer.

              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 number, NCT01295827.).

                Author and article information

                (203) 737-4204 ,
                J Immunother Cancer
                J Immunother Cancer
                Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer
                BioMed Central (London )
                18 September 2019
                18 September 2019
                : 7
                [1 ]ISNI 0000000419368710, GRID grid.47100.32, Department of Pathology, , Yale University School of Medicine, ; 310 Cedar Street, PO Box 208023, New Haven, CT 06510 USA
                [2 ]GRID grid.433548.d, Oncology Research and Development, , Cepheid, ; Sunnyvale, CA USA
                [3 ]ISNI 0000000419368710, GRID grid.47100.32, Department of Biostatistics, , Yale School of Public Health, ; New Haven, CT USA
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0378 8294, GRID grid.62560.37, Department of Medicine, , Brigham and Women’s Hospital, ; Boston, MA USA
                [5 ]GRID grid.433548.d, Medical and Scientific Affairs and Strategy, , Oncology, Cepheid, ; Sunnyvale, CA USA
                [6 ]ISNI 0000000419368710, GRID grid.47100.32, Department of Internal Medicine (Medical Oncology), , Yale University School of Medicine, ; New Haven, CT USA
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: Cepheid
                Funded by: FundRef, National Cancer Institute;
                Award ID: P30-CA016359
                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2019


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