Anti-angiogenic immunotherapy for lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-associated deaths worldwide. Platinum-based chemotherapy is the most common therapeutic approach in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), particularly for tumors that carry non-druggable activating mutations. However, these tumors are generally not eradicated when diagnosed at an advanced stage and are frequently resistant to chemotherapy. Therefore, there is an urgent medical need for new treatments for this frequent cancer type. Immunotherapies are treatments based on increasing the strength of immune responses against cancer. In particular, monoclonal antibodies that block inhibitory "immune-checkpoints" expressed on T cells (e.g., programmed cell death protein 1, or PD1) show clinical efficacy in increasing tumor types. However, these therapies improve survival in only a minority of NSCLC patients, and ongoing efforts are being made for increasing their efficacy through combinatorial treatments. In this regard, growing evidence indicates that tumor angiogenesis is closely associated with immunosuppression. Pro-angiogenic factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) and angiopoietin 2 (ANG2), cause abnormalities and dysfunctions in tumor blood vessels that impair T cell extravasation and anti-tumoral activity. Recent findings in preclinical cancer models show that reprogramming the features of tumor-associated blood vessels by anti-angiogenic drugs may help to increase intratumoral T cell abundance and sensitize refractory tumors to immunotherapy. Nevertheless, the potential of anti-angiogenics in the context of lung cancer immunotherapy is poorly understood. Therefore, the main objective of my project was to audit combinations of anti-angiogenic therapy and immune checkpoint blockade in a genetically engineered mouse model of NSCLC. I first studied the anti-tumoral activity of dual VEGFA and ANG2 inhibition using a bispecific antibody (A2V) in the KrasLSL-G12D/+;p53fl/fl (KP) NSCLC model. I found that A2V, but not single VEGFA or ANG2 blockade, had robust tumor-inhibitory activity in KP mice, which was at least comparable to standard-of-care chemotherapy. However, A2V only moderately increased cytotoxic T cells in the tumors. To potentially increase the immunogenicity of KP tumors, I also generated two KP mouse variants by either co-expressing a surrogate neoantigen or genetically deleting a DNA mismatch repair enzyme in the cancer cells. However, the therapeutic efficacy of A2V was not further improved in spite of a slightly more activated immune response. I next investigated combination therapies involving A2V and PD1 blockade. In contrast to previous findings in other cancer types, the addition of PD1 antibodies deteriorated the efficacy of A2V, likely through enhancing immunosuppressive mechanisms sustained, at least in part, by regulatory T cells and T cell-antagonizing cytokines. In summary, my work supports the potential clinical efficacy of combined VEGFA and ANG2 blockade for lung cancer therapy but provided little evidence for its synergy in association with anti-PD1 therapy.

De Palma, Michele
Lausanne, EPFL

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2019-06-13, last modified 2019-10-13

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