Disease progression in recurrent glioblastoma patients treated with the VEGFR inhibitor axitinib is associated with increased regulatory T cell numbers and T cell exhaustion

Stephanie Du Four, Sarah K Maenhout, Daphné Benteyn, Brenda De Keersmaecker, Johnny Duerinck, Kris Thielemans, Bart Neyns, Joeri L Aerts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Recurrent glioblastoma is associated with a poor overall survival. Antiangiogenic therapy results in a high tumor response rate but has limited impact on survival. Immunotherapy has emerged as an efficient treatment modality for some cancers, and preclinical evidence indicates that anti-VEGF(R) therapy can counterbalance the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

METHODS: We collected peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of patients with recurrent glioblastoma treated in a randomized phase II clinical trial comparing the effect of axitinib with axitinib plus lomustine and analyzed the immunophenotype of PBMC, the production of cytokines and expression of inhibitory molecules by circulating T cells.

RESULTS: PBMC of 18 patients were collected at baseline and at 6 weeks after initiation of study treatment. Axitinib increased the number of naïve CD8(+) T cells and central memory CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells and reduced the TIM3 expression on CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. Patients diagnosed with progressive disease on axitinib had a significantly increased number of regulatory T cells and an increased level of PD-1 expression on CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. In addition, reduced numbers of cytokine-producing T cells were found in progressive patients as compared to patients responding to treatment.

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that axitinib treatment in patients with recurrent glioblastoma has a favorable impact on immune function. At the time of acquired resistance to axitinib, we documented further enhancement of a preexisting immunosuppression. Further investigations on the role of axitinib as potential combination partner with immunotherapy are necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-740
JournalCancer Immunology Immunotherapy
Volume65
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

Keywords

  • diseaese porgression
  • VEGFR inhibitor axitinib
  • increased regulatory
  • T cell exhaustion

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