Immune regulatory antibodies: are they the next advance?

Cancer J. Jul-Aug 2010;16(4):311-7. doi: 10.1097/PPO.0b013e3181eb3381.


During the past decade, new insights into the mechanisms by which T-cell activation and proliferation are regulated have led to the identification of checkpoint proteins that either up- or down-modulate T-cell reactivity. In the presence of active malignancy, pathophysiologic inhibition of T-cell activity may predominate over stimulation. A number of antibodies have been generated that can block inhibitory checkpoint proteins or promote the activity of activating molecules. In murine models, their use alone or with a vaccine strategy has resulted in regression of poorly immunogenic tumors and cures of established tumors. The prototypical immune regulatory antibodies are those directed against cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4, a molecule present on activated T cells. In this review, the preclinical rationale and clinical experience with 2 anticytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 antibodies are extensively discussed, demonstrating that abrogation of an immune inhibitory molecule can result in significant regression of tumors and long-lasting responses. The unique kinetics of antitumor response and the characteristic immune-related side effects of ipilimumab are also discussed. This clinical efficacy of this promising antitumor agent has been evaluated in 2 randomized phase III trials, whose results are eagerly awaited. Programmed death (PD)-1 is another immune inhibitory molecule against which an abrogating human antibody has been prepared. Initial preclinical testing with anti-PD-1 and anti-PD-L1 has shown encouraging results. Stimulatory molecules such as CD40, 41-BB, and OX-40 are also targets for antibody binding and activation, not blockade, and early dose ranging trials with antibodies against all 3 have shown that they can mediate regression of tumors, albeit with their own spectrum of side effects that are different from those that occur with abrogation of immune inhibition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antigens, CD / immunology*
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Ipilimumab
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • Ipilimumab