Significant enthusiasm currently exists for new immunotherapeutic strategies: blocking the interaction between programmed death-1 receptor on T-cells and programmed death-ligand 1 on tumor cells to boost immune system stimulation to fight cancer. Immunomodulation with the antiprogrammed death-1/programmed death-ligand 1 monoclonal antibodies has shown to mediate tumor shrinkage and extend overall survival from several pivotal phase I/II studies in melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, and non-small cell lung cancer. This has prompted multiple large ongoing phase III trials with the expectation for fast-track FDA approvals to satisfy unmet medical needs. Compounds targeting the programmed death-1 pathway that are in clinical trials fall into two major categories, namely antiprogrammed death-1 antibodies: Nivolumab, MK-3475, and pidilizumab; and antiprogrammed death-ligand 1 antibodies: MPDL3280A, BMS-936559, MEDI4736, and MSB0010718C. We reviewed the clinical efficacy and safety of each compound based upon major registered clinical trials and published clinical data. Overall, response rate of more than 20% is consistently seen across all these trials, with maximal response of approximately 50% achieved by certain single antiprogrammed death-1 agents or when used in combination with cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 blockade. The responses seen are early, durable, and have continued after treatment discontinuation. Immune-related adverse events are the most common side effects seen in these clinical trials. Overall, the skin and gastrointestinal tract are the most common organ systems affected by these compounds while hepatic, endocrine, and neurologic events are less frequent. These side effects are low grade, manageable, and typically resolve within a relatively short time frame with a predictable resolution pattern given proper management. We therefore propose detailed guidelines for management of major immune-related adverse events that are anticipated with antiprogrammed death-1/programmed death-ligand 1 therapies based on general experience with other monoclonal antibodies and the established management algorithms for immune-related adverse events for cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 blockade with ipilimumab. We anticipate that the antiprogrammed death-1 strategy will become a viable and crucial clinical strategy for cancer therapy.
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