While systemic immune checkpoint blockade is unsurpassed in the induction of clinically effective T cell immunity in advanced-stage melanoma patients, the risk of autoimmune-related side effects precludes its application in earlier stages. In a Phase-1 dose escalation study we have studied the safety, feasibility and immunological effects of intradermal delivery of a single low dose of anti-CTLA-4/tremelimumab at the primary tumor excision site of patients with clinically Stage I-II melanoma. Dose escalation (4x3 cohorts of 2, 5, 10 and 20 mg) has been concluded with one additional patient enrolled in a 20 mg expansion cohort. Breslow thickness ranged from 0.9 to 6 mm (mean 1.98 mm). Examination of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) revealed (micro-)metastases in five of the patients.
The tremelimub administration was found to be safe without apparent side effects except for one case of localized vitiligo at the highest (20 mg) dose level. Of note, potent immunological effects were observed in equal measure at all dose levels. In all patients a decrease in systemic rates of activated Tregs (aTregs, defined as CD4+CD25hiFoxP3hi T cells) was observed after 7 days of treatment (p<0.001). In 8/13 patients aTreg rates remained low at 12 weeks whereas in five patients aTreg rates had rebounced to pre-treatment levels by that time. In 11/13 patients the percentage of ICOS expressing CD4+ T cells (a recognized biodynamic marker of CTLA-4 blockade) transiently increased with in 1-3 weeks post-treatment.
Specific T cell reactivity against long peptides derived from the melanoma antigens NY-ESO-1 and MART-1 was tested after in vitro re-stimulation in an IFNγ Elispot assay. In 7/13 patients evidence was found of tremelimumab-induced increases in systemic T cell rates, which remained elevated up to 12 weeks post-treatment. Remarkably, 5/13 patients showed pre-existent NY-ESO-1 reactivity, which in all cases had decreased by day 7, and in 3/5 patients had increased over baseline levels by day 21. T cell reactivity to either NY-ESO-1 or MART-1 was observed in 4/4 tested SLN. Of note, both NY-ESO-1 and MART-1 reactive T cells were detected in the SLN of the patient experiencing an isolated incidence of vitiligo after receiving 20 mg tremelimumab.
In conclusion, local administration of a single low dose of anti-CTLA-4/tremelimumab has proven safe and effective in terms of attenuating aTreg levels in peripheral blood and boosting systemic antitumor immunity. As such it may offer an attractive, and up to now sorely lacking, adjuvant treatment option for early-stage melanoma patients at risk for tumor recurrence.
Citation Format: Anita G.M. Stam, Kim M. van Pul, Bas D. Koster, Dafni Chondronasiou, Sinéad M. Lougheed, M. Petrousjka van den Tol, Karin Jooss, Ronald J.C.L.M. Vuylsteke, Alfons J.M. van den Eertwegh, Tanja D. de Gruijl. Single low-dose administration of anti-CTLA-4/tremelimumab at the tumor excision site boosts systemic antitumor immunity in early-stage melanoma patients: Results from a Phase-1 study. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR Inaugural International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; September 16-19, 2015; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2016;4(1 Suppl):Abstract nr B138.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.