Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is an immunogenic and proangiogenic cancer, and antiangiogenic therapy is the current mainstay of treatment. Patients with RCC develop innate or adaptive resistance to antiangiogenic therapy. There is a need to identify biomarkers that predict therapeutic resistance and guide combination therapy. We assessed the interaction between antiangiogenic therapy and the tumor immune microenvironment and determined their impact on clinical outcome. We found that antiangiogenic therapy–treated RCC primary tumors showed increased infiltration of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes, which was inversely related to patient overall survival and progression-free survival. Furthermore, specimens from patients treated with antiangiogenic therapy showed higher infiltration of CD4+FOXP3+ regulatory T cells and enhanced expression of checkpoint ligand programed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1). Both immunosuppressive features were correlated with T-lymphocyte infiltration and were negatively related to patient survival. Treatment of RCC cell lines and RCC xenografts in immunodeficient mice with sunitinib also increased tumor PD-L1 expression. Results from this study indicate that antiangiogenic treatment may both positively and negatively regulate the tumor immune microenvironment. These findings generate hypotheses on resistance mechanisms to antiangiogenic therapy and will guide the development of combination therapy with PD-1/PD-L1–blocking agents. Cancer Immunol Res; 3(9); 1–12. ©2015 AACR.
- Received January 6, 2015.
- Revision received March 27, 2015.
- Accepted April 27, 2015.
- ©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.