Recently, an improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms governing the host response to tumors has led to the identification of checkpoint signaling pathways involved in limiting the anticancer immune response. One of the most critical checkpoint pathways responsible for mediating tumor-induced immune suppression is the programmed death-1 (PD-1) pathway, normally involved in promoting tolerance and preventing tissue damage in settings of chronic inflammation. Many human solid tumors express PD ligand 1 (PD-L1), and this is often associated with a worse prognosis. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes from patients with cancer typically express PD-1 and have impaired antitumor functionality. Proof-of-concept has come from several preclinical studies in which blockade of PD-1 or PD-L1 enhanced T-cell function and tumor cell lysis. Three monoclonal antibodies against PD-1, and one against PD-L1, have reported phase 1 data. All four agents have shown encouraging preliminary activity, and those that have been evaluated in larger patient populations appear to have encouraging safety profiles. Additional data are eagerly awaited. This review summarizes emerging clinical data and potential of PD-1 pathway-targeted antibodies in development. If subsequent investigations confirm the initial results, it is conceivable that agents blocking the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway will prove valuable additions to the growing armamentarium of targeted immunotherapeutic agents.
Keywords: Cancer; immune tolerance; immunotherapy; nivolumab; programmed cell death-1 receptor; programmed cell death-1-ligand 1.
© 2013 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.