Immune checkpoint inhibition holds great promise for selected tumors. The human monoclonal antibody (mAB) avelumab is directed to programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) and is supposed to inhibit the immunosuppressive PD-L1/PD-1 interaction and, furthermore, effect antibody-dependent cytotoxicity (ADCC) lysis of tumor cells. Areas covered: This article presents an overview of the current means to activate the antitumor immune defense by targeting PD-1 or PD-L1 with mABs and their possible role in ADCC-mediated tumor cell elimination. Expert opinion: Avelumab contains a Fc region which can bind cognate receptors on immune effector cells and induce ADCC-mediated tumor cell lysis, in contrast to other mABs directed to PD-1/PD-L1 which lack the ability to trigger ADCC due to belonging to the IgG4 subclass or possessing a mutated Fc region. Preclinical and clinical data indicate that avelumab can be safely administered to cancer patients with a toxicity profile comparable to other mABs and without lysis of PD-L1-positive activated immune cells. This antibody yielded durable responses in a phase II trial in advanced Merkel cell carcinoma patients. Tumor cell lysis by avelumab prevents cells from resorting to alternative checkpoints as shown by targeting PD-1 and the upregulation of TIM-3.
Keywords: Avelumab; antibody-dependent cytotoxicity; immune checkpoints; programmed death ligand-1.