Targeting the MAPK and PI3K pathways in combination with PD1 blockade in melanoma.
ABSTRACT: Immunotherapy of advanced melanoma with CTLA-4 or PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint blockade induces in a proportion of patients long durable responses. In contrast, targeting the MAPK-pathway by selective BRAF and MEK inhibitors induces high response rates, but most patients relapse. Combining targeted therapy with immunotherapy is proposed to improve the long-term outcomes of patients. Preclinical data endorsing this hypothesis are accumulating. Inhibition of the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway may be a promising treatment option to overcome resistance to MAPK inhibition and for additional combination with immunotherapy. We therefore evaluated to which extent dual targeting of the MAPK and PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathways affects tumor immune infiltrates and whether it synergizes with PD-1 checkpoint blockade in a BRAFV600E/PTEN-/--driven melanoma mouse model. Short-term dual BRAF + MEK inhibition enhanced tumor immune infiltration and improved tumor control when combined with PD-1 blockade in a CD8+ T cell dependent manner. Additional PI3K inhibition did not impair tumor control or immune cell infiltration and functionality. Analysis of on-treatment samples from melanoma patients treated with BRAF or BRAF + MEK inhibitors indicates that inhibitor-mediated T cell infiltration occurred in all patients early after treatment initiation but was less frequent found in on-treatment biopsies beyond day 15. Our findings provide a rationale for clinical testing of short-term BRAF + MEK inhibition in combination with immune checkpoint blockade, currently implemented at our institutes. Additional PI3K inhibition could be an option for BRAF + MEK inhibitor resistant patients that receive targeted therapy in combination with immune checkpoint blockade.
Project description:The recent advent of targeted and immune-based therapies has revolutionized the treatment of melanoma and transformed outcomes for patients with metastatic disease. The majority of patients develop resistance to the current standard-of-care targeted therapy, dual BRAF and MEK inhibition, prompting evaluation of a new combination incorporating a CDK4/6 inhibitor. Based on promising preclinical data, combined BRAF, MEK and CDK4/6 inhibition has recently entered clinical trials for the treatment of BRAF<sup>V600</sup> melanoma. Interestingly, while BRAF- and MEK-targeted therapy was initially developed on the basis of potent tumor-intrinsic effects, it was later discovered to have significant immune-potentiating activity. Recent studies have also identified immune-related impacts of CDK4/6 inhibition, though these are less well defined and can be both immune-potentiating and immune-inhibitory. BRAF<sup>V600</sup> melanoma patients are also eligible to receive immunotherapy, specifically checkpoint inhibitors against PD-1 and CTLA-4. The immunomodulatory activity of BRAF/MEK-targeted therapies has prompted interest in combination therapies incorporating these with immune checkpoint inhibitors, however recent clinical trials investigating this approach have produced variable results. Here, we summarize the immunomodulatory effects of BRAF, MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitors, shedding light on the prospective utility of this combination alone and in conjunction with immune checkpoint blockade. Understanding the mechanisms that underpin the clinical efficacy of these available therapies is a critical step forward in optimizing novel combination and scheduling approaches to combat melanoma and improve patient outcomes.
Project description:The BRAF inhibitors vemurafenib, dabrafenib and encorafenib are used in the treatment of patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma. They selectively target BRAF kinase and thus interfere with the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathway that regulates the proliferation and survival of melanoma cells. In addition to their molecularly targeted activity, BRAF inhibitors have immunomodulatory effects. The MAPK pathway is involved in T-cell receptor signalling, and interference in the pathway by BRAF inhibitors has beneficial effects on the tumour microenvironment and anti-tumour immune response in BRAF-mutant melanoma, including increased immune-stimulatory cytokine levels, decreased immunosuppressive cytokine levels, enhanced melanoma differentiation antigen expression and presentation of tumour antigens by HLA 1, and increased intra-tumoral T-cell infiltration and activity. These effects promote recognition of the tumour by the immune system and enhance anti-tumour T-cell responses. Combining BRAF inhibitors with MEK inhibitors provides more complete blockade of the MAPK pathway. The immunomodulatory effects of BRAF inhibition alone or in combination with MEK inhibition provide a rationale for combining these targeted therapies with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Available data support the synergy between these treatment approaches, indicating such combinations provide an additional beneficial effect on the tumour microenvironment and immune response in BRAF-mutant melanoma.
Project description:With the advent of checkpoint inhibition, immunotherapy has revolutionized the clinical management of several cancers, but has demonstrated limited efficacy in mammary carcinoma. Transcriptomic profiling of cancer samples defined distinct immunophenotypic categories characterized by different prognostic and predictive connotations. In breast cancer, genomic alterations leading to the dysregulation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways have been linked to an immune-silent phenotype associated with poor outcome and treatment resistance. These aberrations include mutations of MAP3K1 and MAP2K4, amplification of KRAS, BRAF, and RAF1, and truncations of NF1. Anticancer therapies targeting MAPK signaling by BRAF and MEK inhibitors have demonstrated clear immunologic effects. These off-target properties could be exploited to convert the immune-silent tumor phenotype into an immune-active one. Preclinical evidence supports that MAPK-pathway inhibition can dramatically increase the efficacy of immunotherapy. In this review, we provide a detailed overview of the immunomodulatory impact of MAPK-pathway blockade through BRAF and MEK inhibitions. While BRAF inhibition might be relevant in melanoma only, MEK inhibition is potentially applicable to a wide range of tumors. Context-dependent similarities and differences of MAPK modulation will be dissected, in light of the complexity of the MAPK pathways. Therapeutic strategies combining the favorable effects of MAPK-oriented interventions on the tumor microenvironment while maintaining T-cell function will be presented. Finally, we will discuss recent studies highlighting the rationale for the implementation of MAPK-interference approaches in combination with checkpoint inhibitors and immune agonists in breast cancer.
Project description:Combining PD-L1 blockade with inhibition of oncogenic mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling may result in long-lasting responses in patients with advanced melanoma. This phase 1, open-label, dose-escalation and -expansion study (NCT02027961) investigated safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of durvalumab (anti-PD-L1) combined with dabrafenib (BRAF inhibitor) and trametinib (MEK inhibitor) for patients with BRAF-mutated melanoma (cohort A, n = 26), or durvalumab and trametinib given concomitantly (cohort B, n = 20) or sequentially (cohort C, n = 22) for patients with BRAF-wild type melanoma. Adverse events and treatment discontinuation rates were more common than previously reported for these agents given as monotherapy. Objective responses were observed in 69.2% (cohort A), 20.0% (cohort B) and 31.8% (cohort C) of patients, with evidence of improved tumor immune infiltration and durable responses in a subset of patients with available biopsy samples. In conclusion, combined MAPK inhibition and anti-PD-L1 therapy may provide treatment options for patients with advanced melanoma.
Project description:Monoclonal antibodies against immune checkpoint blockade have proven to be a major success in the treatment of melanoma. The programmed death receptor-1 ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression on melanoma cells is believed to have an inhibitory effect on T cell responses and to be an important escape mechanism from immune attack. Previous studies have shown that PD-L1 can be expressed constitutively or can be induced by IFN-? secreted by infiltrating lymphocytes. In the present study we have investigated the mechanism underlying these two modes of PD-L1 expression in melanoma cells including cells that had acquired resistance to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib. PD-L1 expression was examined by flow cytometry and immunoblotting. Specific inhibitors and siRNA knockdown approaches were used to examine the roles of the RAF/ MEK, PI3K, NF-?B, STAT3 and AP1/ c-Jun pathways. IFN-? inducible expression of PD-L1 was dependent on NF-?B as shown by inhibition with BMS-345541, an inhibitor of I?B and the BET protein inhibitor I-BET151, as well as by siRNA knockdown of NF-?B subunits. We were unable to implicate the BRAF/MEK pathway as major regulators in PD-L1 expression on vemurafenib resistant cells. Similarly the PI3K/AKT pathway and the transcription factors STAT3 and c-Jun had only minor roles in IFN-? induced expression of PD-L1. The mechanism underlying constitutive expression remains unresolved. We suggest these results have significance in selection of treatments that can be used in combination with monoclonal antibodies against PD1, to enhance their effectiveness and to reduce inhibitory effects melanoma cells have against cytotoxic T cell activity.
Project description:Therapies that target oncogenes and immune checkpoint molecules constitute a major group of treatments for metastatic melanoma. A mutation in BRAF (BRAF V600E) affects various signaling pathways, including mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and PI3K/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in melanoma. Target-specific agents, such as MAPK inhibitors improve progression-free survival. However, BRAFV600E mutant melanomas treated with BRAF kinase inhibitors develop resistance. Immune checkpoint molecules, such as programmed death-1 (PD-1) and programmed death ligand-1(PD-L1), induce immune evasion of cancer cells. MAPK inhibitor resistance results from the increased expression of PD-L1. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as anti-PD-L1 or anti-PD-1, are main players in immune therapies designed to target metastatic melanoma. However, melanoma patients show low response rate and resistance to these inhibitors develops within 6-8 months of treatment. Epigenetic reprogramming, such as DNA methylaion and histone modification, regulates the expression of genes involved in cellular proliferation, immune checkpoints and the response to anti-cancer drugs. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) remove acetyl groups from histone and non-histone proteins and act as transcriptional repressors. HDACs are often dysregulated in melanomas, and regulate MAPK signaling, cancer progression, and responses to various anti-cancer drugs. HDACs have been shown to regulate the expression of PD-1/PD-L1 and genes involved in immune evasion. These reports make HDACs ideal targets for the development of anti-melanoma therapeutics. We review the mechanisms of resistance to anti-melanoma therapies, including MAPK inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors. We address the effects of HDAC inhibitors on the response to MAPK inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors in melanoma. In addition, we discuss current progress in anti-melanoma therapies involving a combination of HDAC inhibitors, immune checkpoint inhibitors, and MAPK inhibitors.
Project description:Understanding resistance mechanisms to targeted therapies and immune checkpoint blockade in mutant KRAS lung cancers is critical to developing novel combination therapies and improving patient survival. Here, we show that MEK inhibition enhanced PD-L1 expression while PD-L1 blockade upregulated MAPK signaling in mutant KRAS lung tumors. Combined MEK inhibition with anti-PD-L1 synergistically reduced lung tumor growth and metastasis, but tumors eventually developed resistance to sustained combinatorial therapy. Multi-platform profiling revealed that resistant lung tumors have increased infiltration of Th17 cells, which secrete IL-17 and IL-22 cytokines to promote lung cancer cell invasiveness and MEK inhibitor resistance. Antibody depletion of IL-17A in combination with MEK inhibition and PD-L1 blockade markedly reduced therapy-resistance in vivo. Clinically, increased expression of Th17-associated genes in patients treated with PD-1 blockade predicted poorer overall survival and response in melanoma and predicated poorer response to anti-PD1 in NSCLC patients. Here we show a triple combinatorial therapeutic strategy to overcome resistance to combined MEK inhibitor and PD-L1 blockade.
Project description:<h4>Purpose of review</h4>We provide an updated review of clinical trials evaluating the combination of BRAF/MEK inhibitors with anti-PD-(L)1 therapy (triplet therapy) for patients with advanced BRAF-mutant melanoma, accompanied by a summary of the biological evidence supporting this combination.<h4>Recent findings</h4>Resistance to BRAF/MEK inhibition and comparatively low response rates to immune checkpoint inhibitors remain clinical challenges in the treatment of melanoma. Preclinical data demonstrates that targeted therapy is immune-modulatory and synergises with immune checkpoint inhibition. Several randomised controlled trials have evaluated the combination of targeted therapy with immune checkpoint inhibition. Triplet therapy has shown improvements in progression-free survival and durability of response compared to BRAF/MEK inhibition alone; however, questions remain regarding the best clinical scenario for implementation of this regimen in the era of front-line immunotherapy.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Currently, the major treatment modalities of advanced melanoma are immune check point and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway inhibitors. As lacking head-to-head randomizedcontrolled trials (RCTs) comparing immune check point and MAPK pathway inhibitors, we evaluated the efficacy and toxicity with different treatment combinations of immune check point or MAPK pathway inhibitors for advanced melanoma by network meta-analysis.<h4>Methods</h4>We searched for RCTs in Pubmed, Embase, Ovid MEDLINE, Web of Science and Cochrane Central Register for Controlled Trials through March 2017. Two reviewers performed a network meta-analysis by assessing the hazard ratios (HRs) for overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), as well as by evaluating serious adverse events (SAEs).<h4>Results</h4>Twenty-four eligible RCTs involving 10,951 patients assigned to 11 treatment modalities were included. The combination of BRAF and MEK inhibitors demonstrated an improved OS benefit compared with all the other treatments except programmed death-1/ligand-1 (PD-1/L1) blockade because the difference in OS between the BRAF-MEK inhibitor combination and PD-1 blockade (HR: 0.85; 95% credible interval (CrI): 0.59, 1.21) was not significant. For PFS, the BRAF and MEK inhibitor combination showed a significant advantage compared with other treatments apart from the combination of PD-1/L1 and cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4(CTLA-4) blockade (HR:0.61; 95% CrI: 0.30, 1.25). The MEK inhibitor combined with chemotherapy was associated with the highest risk of SAEs (HR: 1.76 95% CrI: 1.21, 2.48).<h4>Conclusions</h4>The combination of BRAF and MEK inhibitors exhibited a survival advantage in OS and PFS and comparable risk of toxicity compared with chemotherapy.