PD-L1/PD1 Modulation Mechanisms in Lung Cancer: From Basic to Translational Evidences

A special issue of Cancers (ISSN 2072-6694).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2020) | Viewed by 50496

Special Issue Editors

Laboratory of Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy
Interests: lung cancer; target therapies; precision medicine; resistance mechanisms to target therapies; gene rearrangements; point mutations; next generation sequencing; methylation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite all recent efforts, the complex and dynamic interactions between immune systems and tumors allow us to understand why predicting the response of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) treatment using a single biomarker might not be possible in lung cancer. The predictive and prognostic values of the PD-L1 expression alone in lung cancer patients is currently under debate because of the methodological assessment of the PD-L1 expression and its temporal variations. Better detailed studies aimed at understanding the molecular basis of the main immunotherapy biomarkers are in demand. Genetic and epigenetic alterations strictly linked to the CD274/PD-L1 and CD279/PD-1 gene modulations have received surprisingly little attention until now, even if the results are currently highlighting the power of this analysis.

In this Special Issue, we plan to focus on genetic and epigenetic alterations that have a significant impact on the PD-L1/PD-1 system in solid tumors. We will discuss their biologic mechanism, detection methodologies, their impact on patients’ outcomes and utility in the context of immunotherapy in the cancer scenario.

Dr. Lucia Anna Muscarella
Dr. Umberto Malapelle
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • biomarkers
  • predictive molecular pathology
  • CD274/PD-L1
  • CD279/PD-1
  • genomic aberrations
  • polymorphisms
  • epigenetic modulation
  • precision medicine

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 327 KiB  
Editorial
Immunotherapy and NSCLC: The Long and Winding Road
Cancers 2020, 12(9), 2512; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12092512 - 04 Sep 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3246
Abstract
Lung cancer is one of the most incident tumors worldwide, characterized by a very bad prognosis due to its high mortality even in early stages [...] Full article
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Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review, Other

16 pages, 4974 KiB  
Article
Digital Pathology and PD-L1 Testing in Non Small Cell Lung Cancer: A Workshop Record
Cancers 2020, 12(7), 1800; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12071800 - 05 Jul 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3118
Abstract
A meeting among expert pathologists was held in 2019 in Rome to verify the results of the previous harmonization efforts on the PD-L1 immunohistochemical testing by scoring a representative series of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) digital slides. The current paper shows the [...] Read more.
A meeting among expert pathologists was held in 2019 in Rome to verify the results of the previous harmonization efforts on the PD-L1 immunohistochemical testing by scoring a representative series of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) digital slides. The current paper shows the results of this digital experimental meeting and the expertise achieved by the community of Italian pathologists. PD-L1 protein expression was determined using tumor proportion score (TPS), i.e., the percentage of viable tumor cells showing partial or complete membrane staining at any intensity. The gold standard was defined as the final PD-L1 score formulated by a panel of seven lung committed pathologists. PD-L1 status was clustered in three categories, namely negative (TPS < 1), low (TPS 1–49%), and high (TPS ≥ 50%). In 23 cases (71.9%) PD-L1 staining was performed using the companion diagnostic 22C3 pharmDx kit on Dako Autostainer, while in nine (28.1%) cases it was performed using the SP263 Ventana kit on BenchMark platform. A complete PD-L1 scoring agreement between the panel of experts and the participants was reached in 57.1% of cases, whereas a minor disagreement in 16.1% of cases was recorded. Italian pathologists performed best in strong positive cases (i.e., tumor proportion score TPS > 50%), whereas only 10.8% of disagreement with the gold standard was observed, and 55.6% regarded a single challenging case. The worst performance was achieved in the negative cases, with 32.0% disagreement. A significant difference resulted from the analysis of the data separated by the different clones used: 22.3% and 38.1% disagreement (p = 0.01) was found in the group of cases analyzed by 22C3 and SP263 antibody clones, respectively. In conclusion, this workshop record proposed the application of a digital pathology platform to share controversial cases in educational meetings as an alternative possibility for improving the interpretation and reporting of specific histological tools. Due to the crucial role of PD-L1 TPS for the selection of patients for immunotherapy, the identification of unconventional approaches as virtual slides to focus experiences and give more detailed practical verifications of the standard quality reached may be a considerable option. Full article
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14 pages, 5268 KiB  
Article
Integration of Tumor Mutation Burden and PD-L1 Testing in Routine Laboratory Diagnostics in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Cancers 2020, 12(6), 1685; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12061685 - 24 Jun 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3641
Abstract
In recent years, Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has evolved into a prime example for precision oncology with multiple FDA-approved “precision” drugs. For the majority of NSCLC lacking targetable genetic alterations, immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) has become standard of care in first-line treatment [...] Read more.
In recent years, Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has evolved into a prime example for precision oncology with multiple FDA-approved “precision” drugs. For the majority of NSCLC lacking targetable genetic alterations, immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) has become standard of care in first-line treatment or beyond. PD-L1 tumor expression represents the only approved predictive biomarker for PD-L1/PD-1 checkpoint inhibition by therapeutic antibodies. Since PD-L1-negative or low-expressing tumors may also respond to ICI, additional factors are likely to contribute in addition to PD-L1 expression. Tumor mutation burden (TMB) has emerged as a potential candidate; however, it is the most complex biomarker so far and might represent a challenge for routine diagnostics. We therefore established a hybrid capture (HC) next-generation sequencing (NGS) assay that covers all oncogenic driver alterations as well as TMB and validated TMB values by correlation with the assay (F1CDx) used for the CheckMate 227 study. Results of the first consecutive 417 patients analyzed in a routine clinical setting are presented. Data show that fast reliable comprehensive diagnostics including TMB and targetable alterations are obtained with a short turn-around time. Thus, even complex biomarkers can easily be implemented in routine practice to optimize treatment decisions for advanced NSCLC. Full article
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14 pages, 3678 KiB  
Article
Immunomodulatory Molecules On Lung Cancer Stem Cells From Lymph Nodes Aspirates
Cancers 2020, 12(4), 838; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12040838 - 31 Mar 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2926
Abstract
Over the past decade, immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Unfortunately, not all patients benefit from PD-(L)1 blockade, yet, the PD-L1 tumor cell expression is the only approved biomarker, and other biomarkers have been investigated. In [...] Read more.
Over the past decade, immune checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Unfortunately, not all patients benefit from PD-(L)1 blockade, yet, the PD-L1 tumor cell expression is the only approved biomarker, and other biomarkers have been investigated. In the present study, we analyzed the presence of immunomodulatory molecules: PD-L1, CD47, CD73, Fas, and FasL on mature tumor cells (MTCs) and cancer stem cells (CSCs) in lymph nodes (LNs) aspirates and refer it to the lymphocyte subpopulation in peripheral blood (PB). PB samples and LNs aspirates obtained during the endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS/TBNA) procedure of 20 patients at different stages of NSCLC. The cells were analyzed by multiparameter flow cytometry. We reported the higher frequency of MTCs and CSCs expressing the investigated immunomodulating molecules in metastatic LNs than in nonmetastatic. The expression of CD47 and PD-L1 was significantly higher on CSCs than on MTCs. Among the lymphocyte subpopulation in PB, we observed a higher frequency of PD-1+ CD8 T cells and Fas+ CD8 T cells in patients with confirmed metastases than in nonmetastatic. Next, we found that the percentage of FasL+ MTCs correlated with the frequency of Fas+ CD3 T cells in LNs aspirates and Fas+ CD8 T cells in PB. Finally, we found that patients with metastatic disease had a significantly higher FasL+/Fas+ MTCs ratio than patients with nonmetastatic disease. Both MTCs and CSCs express different immunomodulatory molecules on their surface. The frequency of FasL+ MTCs associates with altered distribution of Fas+ lymphocyte subpopulations in LNs and PB. Full article
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16 pages, 3499 KiB  
Article
Pemetrexed Enhances Membrane PD-L1 Expression and Potentiates T Cell-Mediated Cytotoxicity by Anti-PD-L1 Antibody Therapy in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Cancers 2020, 12(3), 666; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12030666 - 12 Mar 2020
Cited by 26 | Viewed by 5050
Abstract
Immunotherapy has significantly changed the treatment landscape for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with the introduction of drugs targeting programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) and programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1). In particular, the addition of the anti-PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab to platinum-pemetrexed chemotherapy resulted [...] Read more.
Immunotherapy has significantly changed the treatment landscape for advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with the introduction of drugs targeting programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) and programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1). In particular, the addition of the anti-PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab to platinum-pemetrexed chemotherapy resulted in a significantly improved overall survival in patients with non-squamous NSCLC, regardless of PD-L1 expression. In this preclinical study, we investigated whether chemotherapy can modulate PD-L1 expression in non-squamous NSCLC cell lines, thus potentially affecting immunotherapy efficacy. Among different chemotherapeutic agents tested, only pemetrexed increased PD-L1 levels by activating both mTOR/P70S6K and STAT3 pathways. Moreover, it also induced the secretion of cytokines, such as IFN-γ and IL-2, by activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells PBMCs that further stimulated the expression of PD-L1 on tumor cells, as demonstrated in a co-culture system. The anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapy enhanced T cell-mediated cytotoxicity of NSCLC cells treated with pemetrexed and expressing high levels of PD-L1 in comparison with untreated cells. These data may explain the positive results obtained with pemetrexed-based chemotherapy combined with pembrolizumab in PD-L1-negative NSCLC and can support pemetrexed as one of the preferable chemotherapy partners for immunochemotherapy combination regimens. Full article
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Review

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13 pages, 985 KiB  
Review
Acquired Resistance to PD-1/PD-L1 Blockade in Lung Cancer: Mechanisms and Patterns of Failure
Cancers 2020, 12(12), 3851; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12123851 - 20 Dec 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 3707
Abstract
Immunotherapy is now the preferred treatment for most lung cancer patients. It is used to treat unresectable stage III non-small-cell lung cancer and is the first-line therapy for non-oncogene-driven advanced/metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer patients (either alone or in combination with chemotherapy). Unfortunately, most [...] Read more.
Immunotherapy is now the preferred treatment for most lung cancer patients. It is used to treat unresectable stage III non-small-cell lung cancer and is the first-line therapy for non-oncogene-driven advanced/metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer patients (either alone or in combination with chemotherapy). Unfortunately, most patients that respond initially to immunotherapy develop resistance over time, thus limiting the durability of immunotherapy. A better understanding of the mechanisms of acquired resistance is urgently needed to expand the benefit of immunotherapy in lung cancer patients. This review aims to summarize the mechanisms and clinical outcomes of acquired resistance of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapies in non-small-cell lung cancer patients. Full article
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21 pages, 895 KiB  
Review
The Mechanisms of PD-L1 Regulation in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC): Which Are the Involved Players?
Cancers 2020, 12(11), 3129; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12113129 - 26 Oct 2020
Cited by 26 | Viewed by 4944
Abstract
Treatment with inhibition of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) or its ligand (PD-L1) improves survival in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Nevertheless, only a subset of patients benefit from treatment and biomarkers of response to immunotherapy are lacking. Expression of PD-L1 on tumor [...] Read more.
Treatment with inhibition of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) or its ligand (PD-L1) improves survival in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Nevertheless, only a subset of patients benefit from treatment and biomarkers of response to immunotherapy are lacking. Expression of PD-L1 on tumor cells is the primary clinically-available predictive factor of response to immune checkpoint inhibitors, and its relevance in cancer immunotherapy has fostered several studies to better characterize the mechanisms that regulate PD-L1 expression. However, the factors associated with PD-L1 expression are still not well understood. Genomic alterations that activate KRAS, EGFR, and ALK, as well as the loss of PTEN, have been associated with increased PD-L1 expression. In addition, PD-L1 expression is reported to be increased by amplification of CD274, and decreased by STK11 deficiency. Furthermore, PD-L1 expression can be modulated by either tumor extrinsic or intrinsic factors. Among extrinsic factors, the most prominent one is interferon-γ release by immune cells, while there are several tumor intrinsic factors such as activation of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Myc pathways that can increase PD-L1 expression. A deeper understanding of PD-L1 expression regulation is crucial for improving strategies that exploit inhibition of this immune checkpoint in the clinic, especially in NSCLC where it is central in the therapeutic algorithm. We reviewed current preclinical and clinical data about PD-L1 expression regulation in NSCLC. Full article
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17 pages, 285 KiB  
Review
Immunotherapy in Small Cell Lung Cancer
Cancers 2020, 12(9), 2522; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12092522 - 04 Sep 2020
Cited by 59 | Viewed by 6869
Abstract
Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive tumor type with limited therapeutic options and poor prognosis. Chemotherapy regimens containing platinum represent the cornerstone of treatment for patients with extensive disease, but there has been no real progress for 30 years. The evidence that [...] Read more.
Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive tumor type with limited therapeutic options and poor prognosis. Chemotherapy regimens containing platinum represent the cornerstone of treatment for patients with extensive disease, but there has been no real progress for 30 years. The evidence that SCLC is characterized by a high mutational burden led to the development of immune-checkpoint inhibitors as single agents or in combination with chemotherapy. Randomized phase III trials demonstrated that the combination of atezolizumab (IMpower-133) or durvalumab (CASPIAN) with platinum-etoposide chemotherapy improved overall survival of patients with extensive disease. Instead, the KEYNOTE-604 study demonstrated that the addition of pembrolizumab to chemotherapy failed to significantly improve overall survival, but it prolonged progression-free survival. The safety profile of these combinations was similar with the known safety profiles of all single agents and no new adverse events were observed. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab single agents showed anti-tumor activity and acceptable safety profile in Checkmate 032 and KEYNOTE 028/158 trials, respectively, in patients with SCLC after platinum-based therapy and at least one prior line of therapy. Future challenges are the identification predictive biomarkers of response to immunotherapy in SCLC and the definition of the role of immunotherapy in patients with limited stage SCLC, in combination with radiotherapy or with other biological agents. Full article
39 pages, 1560 KiB  
Review
Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Signaling Pathways, Metabolism, and PD-1/PD-L1 Antibodies
Cancers 2020, 12(6), 1475; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12061475 - 05 Jun 2020
Cited by 63 | Viewed by 13646
Abstract
Treatment of advanced (metastatic) non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is currently mainly based on immunotherapy with antibodies against PD-1 or PD-L1, alone, or in combination with chemotherapy. In locally advanced NSCLC and in early resected stages, immunotherapy is also employed. Tumor PD-L1 expression by [...] Read more.
Treatment of advanced (metastatic) non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is currently mainly based on immunotherapy with antibodies against PD-1 or PD-L1, alone, or in combination with chemotherapy. In locally advanced NSCLC and in early resected stages, immunotherapy is also employed. Tumor PD-L1 expression by immunohistochemistry is considered the standard practice. Response rate is low, with median progression free survival very short in the vast majority of studies reported. Herein, numerous biological facets of NSCLC are described involving driver genetic lesions, mutations ad fusions, PD-L1 glycosylation, ferroptosis and metabolic rewiring in NSCLC and lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD). Novel concepts, such as immune-transmitters and the effect of neurotransmitters in immune evasion and tumor growth, the nascent relevance of necroptosis and pyroptosis, possible new biomarkers, such as gasdermin D and gasdermin E, the conundrum of K-Ras mutations in LUADs, with the growing recognition of liver kinase B1 (LKB1) and metabolic pathways, including others, are also commented. The review serves to charter diverse treatment solutions, depending on the main altered signaling pathways, in order to have effectual immunotherapy. Tumor PDCD1 gene (encoding PD-1) has been recently described, in equilibrium with tumor PD-L1 (encoded by PDCD1LG1). Such description explains tumor hyper-progression, which has been reported in several studies, and poises the fundamental criterion that IHC PD-L1 expression as a biomarker should be revisited. Full article
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Other

8 pages, 696 KiB  
Brief Report
Soluble PD-L1 in NSCLC Patients Treated with Checkpoint Inhibitors and Its Correlation with Metabolic Parameters
Cancers 2020, 12(6), 1373; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12061373 - 27 May 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 2514
Abstract
We investigated the role of soluble PD-L1 (sPD-L1) in non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and analyzed its association with clinical outcomes and metabolic parameters by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG-PET/CT). Between July 2017 and May [...] Read more.
We investigated the role of soluble PD-L1 (sPD-L1) in non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and analyzed its association with clinical outcomes and metabolic parameters by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG-PET/CT). Between July 2017 and May 2019, we enrolled 20 candidate patients of ICI therapy who had serum frozen samples and 18F-FDG PET/CT available, both at baseline and at the first response evaluation. This analysis is embedded into a larger prospective study (NCT03563482). Twelve out of 20 patients received nivolumab, one patient received combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab, whereas the others received pembrolizumab. Median sPD-L1 level at baseline was 27.22 pg/mL. We found a significant association between patients with elevated sPD-L1, above the median value, and high metabolic tumor burden, expressed by metabolic tumor volume (MTV, 115.3 vs. 35.5, p = 0.034) and total lesion glycolysis (TLG, 687 vs. 210.1, p = 0.049). At the first restaging after 7–8 weeks, median sPD-L1 levels significantly increased as compared to baseline median value (43.9 pg/mL, p = 0.017). No significant differences in response rates were detected, according to both morphological and metabolic response criteria. Likewise, no difference in survival outcomes were observed between low sPD-L1 and high sPD-L1 patients. The increase of sPD-L1 concentrations during ICI treatment may reflect the expansion of tumor volume and the tumor lysis. Moreover, it is supposed that sPD-L1 has its own biological action, either by reducing membrane PD-1 sites available for nivolumab or by inducing lymphocytes exhaustion after binding their membrane PD-1. Further, larger studies are needed to confirm our preliminary results on the role of sPD-L1 during ICI therapy. Full article
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