PD-1 blockade therapy in renal cell carcinoma: current studies and future promises

F Massari, M Santoni, C Ciccarese, D Santini, S Alfieri, G Martignoni, M Brunelli, F Piva, R Berardi, R Montironi, C Porta, S Cascinu, G Tortora
Cancer Treatment Reviews 2015, 41 (2): 114-21
RCC is considered an immunogenic tumor with a prominent dysfunctional immune cell infiltrate, unable to control tumor growth. Evasion of immune surveillance, a process defined immune-editing, leads to malignant progression. The striking improvement of knowledge in immunology has led to the identification of immune checkpoints (such as CTLA-4 and PD-1), whose blockage enhances the antitumor immunity. The interaction between PD-1, an inducible inhibitory receptor expressed on lymphocytes and DCs, and PD-L1 ligand, expressed by tumor cells, results in a down-regulation of the T-cell response. Therefore, the PD-1/PD-L1 axis inhibition by targeted-antibodies, increasing the T-cell proliferation and cytotoxicity, represents a promising mechanism to stimulate the anti-tumor activity of the immune system, improving the outcomes of cancer patients. Several PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors have been evaluated in different tumor types, showing promising results. The interesting correlation between lymphocytes PD-1 expression and RCC advanced stage, grade and prognosis, as well as the selective PD-L1 expression by RCC tumor cells and its potential association with worse clinical outcomes, have led to the development of new anti PD-1/PD-L1 agents, alone or in combination with anti-angiogenic drugs or other immunotherapeutic approaches, for the treatment of RCC. In this review we discuss the role of PD-1/PD-L1 in RCC, focusing on the biological rationale, current clinical studies and promising therapeutic perspectives to target the PD-1 pathway.

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