Research Papers:

Topoisomerase I inhibitor, irinotecan, depletes regulatory T cells and up-regulates MHC class I and PD-L1 expression, resulting in a supra-additive antitumor effect when combined with anti-PD-L1 antibodies

Toshiki Iwai, Masamichi Sugimoto _, Daiko Wakita, Keigo Yorozu, Mitsue Kurasawa and Kaname Yamamoto

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:31411-31421. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25830

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Toshiki Iwai1, Masamichi Sugimoto1, Daiko Wakita1, Keigo Yorozu1, Mitsue Kurasawa1 and Kaname Yamamoto1

1Product Research Department, Kamakura Research Laboratories, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Kanagawa, Japan

Correspondence to:

Masamichi Sugimoto, email: [email protected]

Keywords: PD-L1; PD-1; irinotecan; Tregs; combination

Received: April 23, 2018     Accepted: July 12, 2018     Published: July 31, 2018


Anti-PD-L1 antibodies inhibit interactions between PD-L1 and PD-1 and interactions between PD-L1 and B7-1, thereby reinvigorating anticancer immunity. Although there are numerous ongoing clinical studies evaluating combinations of standard chemotherapies and anti-PD-L1 antibodies, irinotecan has not yet been investigated in this context so there is little information about its compatibility with anti-PD-L1 antibodies. Here we investigated the efficacy of anti-PD-L1 antibody in combination with irinotecan and the role of irinotecan in the tumor–immunity cycle in an FM3A murine tumor model. Despite a transient decrease in lymphocytes in the peripheral blood after irinotecan treatment, the antitumor activity of anti-PD-L1 antibody plus irinotecan was significantly greater than each agent alone. Irinotecan in combination with anti-PD-L1 antibody enhanced proliferation of CD8+ cells in both tumors and lymph nodes, and the number of tumor-infiltrating CD8+ cells was higher than either irinotecan or anti-PD-L1 antibody monotherapy. Irinotecan was found to decrease the number of Tregs in lymph nodes and tumors, and specific depletion of Tregs by anti-folate receptor 4 antibodies was found to enhance the proliferation of CD8+ cells in this model. In addition, irinotecan augmented MHC class I expression on tumor cells and concurrently increased PD-L1 expression on tumor cells and tumor-infiltrating immune cells. These results indicate that irinotecan may enhance the effect of T cell activation caused by anti-PD-L1 treatment by reducing Tregs and augmenting MHC class I–mediated tumor antigen presentation, and concurrent upregulation of PD-L1 expression can be blocked by the anti-PD-L1 antibody. These interactions may contribute to the superior combination effect.

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