Priority Research Papers:

Enhanced killing of chordoma cells by antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity employing the novel anti-PD-L1 antibody avelumab

Rika Fujii, Eitan R. Friedman, Jacob Richards, Kwong Y. Tsang, Christopher R. Heery, Jeffrey Schlom and James W. Hodge _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:33498-33511. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9256

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Rika Fujii1, Eitan R. Friedman1, Jacob Richards1, Kwong Y. Tsang1, Christopher R. Heery1, Jeffrey Schlom1 and James W. Hodge1

1 Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA

Correspondence to:

James W. Hodge, email:

Keywords: chordoma, programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC), cancer stem cells, immunotherapy

Received: March 21, 2016 Accepted: April 26, 2016 Published: May 09, 2016


Chordoma, a rare bone tumor derived from the notochord, has been shown to be resistant to conventional therapies. Checkpoint inhibition has shown great promise in immune-mediated therapy of diverse cancers. The anti-PD-L1 mAb avelumab is unique among checkpoint inhibitors in that it is a fully human IgG1 capable of mediating antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) of PD-L1-expressing tumor cells. Here, we investigated avelumab as a potential therapy for chordoma. We examined 4 chordoma cell lines, first for expression of PD-L1, and in vitro for ADCC killing using NK cells and avelumab. PD-L1 expression was markedly upregulated by IFN-γ in all 4 chordoma cell lines, which significantly increased sensitivity to ADCC. Brachyury is a transcription factor that is uniformly expressed in chordoma. Clinical trials are ongoing in which chordoma patients are treated with brachyury-specific vaccines. Co-incubating chordoma cells with brachyury-specific CD8+ T cells resulted in significant upregulation of PD-L1 on the tumor cells, mediated by the CD8+ T cells’ IFN-γ production, and increased sensitivity of chordoma cells to avelumab-mediated ADCC. Residential cancer stem cell subpopulations of chordoma cells were also killed by avelumab-mediated ADCC to the same degree as non-cancer stem cell populations. These findings suggest that as a monotherapy for chordoma, avelumab may enable endogenous NK cells, while in combination with T-cell immunotherapy, such as a vaccine, avelumab may enhance NK-cell killing of chordoma cells via ADCC.

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