Nectin-4: a new prognostic biomarker for efficient therapeutic targeting of primary and metastatic triple-negative breast cancer

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Abstract

Background

Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are associated with a poor prognosis. In contrast to other molecular subtypes, they have no identified specific target and chemotherapy remains the only available systemic treatment. The adhesion molecule nectin-4 represents a new potential therapeutic target in different cancer models. Here, we have tested the prognostic value of nectin-4 expression and assessed the therapeutic efficiency of an anti-nectin 4 antibody drug conjugate (ADC) on localised and metastatic TNBC in vitro and in vivo.

Materials and methods

We analysed nectin-4/PVRL4 mRNA expression in 5673 invasive breast cancers and searched for correlations with clinicopathological features including metastasis-free survival (MFS). Immunohistochemistry was carried out in 61 TNBCs and in samples of primary TNBC Patient-Derived Xenografts (PDXs). An anti-nectin-4 antibody eligible for ADC was produced and tested in vitro and in vivo in localised and metastatic TNBC PDXs.

Results

High nectin-4/PVRL4 mRNA expression was associated with poor-prognosis features including the TN and basal subtypes. High PVRL4 mRNA expression showed independent negative prognostic value for MFS in multivariate analysis in TNBCs. Nectin-4 protein expression was not detected in adult healthy tissues including mammary tissue. Membranous protein expression was found in 62% of TNBCs, with strong correlation with mRNA expression. We developed an ADC (N41mab-vcMMAE) comprising a human anti-nectin-4 monoclonal antibody conjugated to monomethyl auristatin-E (MMAE). In vitro, this ADC bound to nectin-4 with high affinity and specificity and induced its internalisation as well as dose-dependent cytotoxicity on nectin-4-expressing breast cancer cell lines. In vivo, this ADC induced rapid, complete and durable responses on nectin-4-positive xenograft TNBC samples including primary tumours, metastatic lesions, and local relapses; efficiency was dependent on both the dose and the nectin-4 tumour expression level.

Conclusion

Nectin-4 is both a new promising prognostic biomarker and specific therapeutic target for ADC in the very limited armamentarium against TNBC.

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