Compensatory Immune Suppression Following PD-1/PD-l1 Checkpoint Blockade in Ovarian Cancer

Project: Research project

Project Details


Ovarian cancer (OC) is immunogenic, and higher natural immune responses against OC are associated with markedly better outcomes. These natural immune responses are mediated primarily by a group of immune cells in the body, called T cells. Higher numbers of naturally occurring T cells in the tumor predicts improved progression-free survival and improved overall survival. These findings provide a basis for thinking that we can apply immune-based therapies for the treatment of OC. This idea is attractive because the activation of an immune response can be highly specific for OC and may not have the untoward toxic effects ordinarily seen with chemotherapies. Indeed, several immunotherapy studies have been done, but the results have been disappointing because OC is very good at activating suppressive mechanisms that overcome the immune responses. Indeed, greater than 10 suppressor mechanisms have been identified that are at the disposal of OCs. In recent years, there has been the development of a class of therapies that target what are called checkpoints in the immune system. These checkpoints are naturally present in the immune system and have evolved to control of the magnitude of the immune response to prevent excessive damage to tissue following activation of the immune responses. OCs, and many other cancers, directly activate these checkpoint mechanisms to block immune responses. Scientists have speculated in recent years that blocking these checkpoint pathways may actually allow the further activation of the immune responses leading to regression of tumors, which could, in turn, lead to better outcome for patients, including complete cures. Indeed, in advanced metastatic melanoma, complete cures have been observed in patients thought to be on their last leg. These incredible findings have led to broad shift in industry toward the development of checkpoint blockade strategies. Every major pharmaceutical company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advancing these strategies. There are two major checkpoints that are currently being targeted in clinical trials and have received marketing approvals from the US Food and Drug Administration. These are the CTLA-4/CD28 and PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoints. PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint blockade is the newest addition to the clinic and is the primary focus of this application. Although ongoing trial results of PD-1/PD-L1 blockade have yet to be reported in human OC, we have recently shown in murine models that PD-1 blockade can suppress and regress tumors in the peritoneal cavity similar to the encouraging finding observed in non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma. In terms of clinical responses to therapy, trial results in human OC are likely going to be very similar as to what has been reported for other solid tumors, which is typically 30%-40% and includes complete and partial tumor regressions as well as disease stabilizations. Although the power of checkpoint blockade is obvious from the dramatic regressions observed in other cancers, it is also obvious that we need to continue exploring how and why the approach works and does not work. I am committed to ending OC deaths and, despite the fact that PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint blockade is not used clinically yet, I believe that now is the time to start developing a further understanding of the approach in OCs. Particularly, our goal is to understand how ovarian tumors evade checkpoint blockade. Our hypothesis is that OCs rapidly upregulate compensatory immune suppression mechanisms, following exposure to checkpoint blockade, that prevent their destruction. This latter hypothesis is the underlying concept developed in the present application, specifically focusing on PD-1/PD-L1 blockade. I aim to develop an early understanding, using biologically relevant models, which will inform future clinical trial design and enhance implementation of combinatorial approaches leading to more complete regressions and durable remissio

Effective start/end date9/1/168/31/18


  • U.S. Army: $391,250.00


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