Host expression of PD-L1 determines efficacy of PD-L1 pathway blockade–mediated tumor regression

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Abstract

Programmed death-1 receptor (PD-L1, B7-H1) and programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) pathway blockade is a promising therapy for treating cancer. However, the mechanistic contribution of host and tumor PD-L1 and PD-1 signaling to the therapeutic efficacy of PD-L1 and PD-1 blockade remains elusive. Here, we evaluated 3 tumor-bearing mouse models that differ in their sensitivity to PD-L1 blockade and demonstrated a loss of therapeutic efficacy of PD-L1 blockade in immunodeficient mice and in PD-L1– and PD-1–deficient mice. In contrast, neither knockout nor overexpression of PD-L1 in tumor cells had an effect on PD-L1 blockade efficacy. Human and murine studies showed high levels of functional PD-L1 expression in dendritic cells and macrophages in the tumor microenvironments and draining lymph nodes. Additionally, expression of PD-L1 on dendritic cells and macrophages in ovarian cancer and melanoma patients correlated with the efficacy of treatment with either anti–PD-1 alone or in combination with anti–CTLA-4. Thus, PD-L1–expressing dendritic cells and macrophages may mechanistically shape and therapeutically predict clinical efficacy of PD-L1/PD-1 blockade.

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