Importance: There is a strong rationale for treating sarcomas with immunotherapy.
Objective: To assess the efficacy and safety of programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) targeting in combination with metronomic chemotherapy in sarcomas.
Design, setting, and participants: This was an open-label, multicenter, phase 2 study of 4 cohorts of patients with advanced soft-tissue sarcoma (STS), including leiomyosarcoma (LMS), undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS), other sarcomas (others), and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). All patients received 50 mg twice daily cyclophosphamide 1 week on and 1 week off and 200 mg of intravenous pembrolizumab every 3 weeks.
Intervention or exposure: Pembrolizumab in combination with metronomic cyclophosphamide.
Main outcomes and measures: There was a dual primary end point, encompassing both the nonprogression and objective responses at 6 months per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST) v1.1 for LMS, UPS, and others and 6-month nonprogression for GIST. An objective response rate of 20% and/or a 6-month nonprogression rate of 60% were determined as reasonable objectives for treatment with meaningful effect. Correlative studies of immune biomarkers were planned from patient tumor and plasma samples.
Results: Between June 2015 and July 2016, 57 patients were included (median [range] age, 59.5 [18.5-84.0] years; 24 women [42%]); 50 patients were assessable for the efficacy end point. Three patients experienced tumor shrinkage, resulting in a partial response in a single solitary fibrous tumor. The 6-month nonprogression rates were 0%, 0%, 14.3% (95% CI, 1.8%-42.8%) for LMS, UPS, and others, respectively, and 11.1% (95% CI, 2.8%-48.3%) for GIST. The most frequent adverse events were grade 1 or 2 fatigue, diarrhea, and anemia. The only patient who experienced partial response was the only one with strong programmed cell death 1 ligand 1-positive staining in immune cell. Strong infiltration by macrophage expressing the inhibitory enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) was observed in the majority of cases. Moreover, a significant increase in the kynurenine to tryptophan ratio was observed in patient plasma samples during the study treatment.
Conclusions and relevance: We found that PD-1 inhibition has limited activity in selected STS and GIST. This may be explained by an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment resulting from macrophage infiltration and IDO1 pathway activation.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02406781.