Soluble CD73 as biomarker in patients with metastatic melanoma patients treated with nivolumab

J Transl Med. 2017 Dec 4;15(1):244. doi: 10.1186/s12967-017-1348-8.


Background: Nivolumab is an anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitor active in patients with advanced melanoma and as adjuvant therapy in high-risk metastatic melanoma patients.

Methods: In this single-center retrospective analysis, we investigated the CD73 enzyme activity in patients with metastatic melanoma stage IV and its correlation with the response to nivolumab. The soluble CD73 (sCD73) enzyme activity was measured in the serum of 37 melanoma patients before receiving nivolumab and the Harrel's C index was used to find the best cut-off for this biomarker. The multivariate Cox proportional hazard model was used to evaluate the prognostic value of CD73 enzyme activity for survival and progression-free survival.

Results: Our results show that high levels of sCD73 enzyme activity were significantly associated with poor overall survival and progression-free survival in patients with metastatic melanoma. The median progression-free survival was 2.6 months [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.9-3.3] in patients with high sCD73 enzyme activity (> 27.8 pmol/min/mg protein), and 14.2 months (95% CI 4.6-23.8) in patients with lower CD73 enzyme activity, when patients were follow-up for a median of 24 months range. The median overall survival was not reached in patients with low sCD73 activity (< 27.8 pmol/min/mg protein) compared with 6.1 months (95% CI 0-14.8) in patients with higher sCD73 activity. In multivariate analyses, the sCD73 enzyme activity emerged as the strongest prognostic factor for overall survival and progression-free survival. Elevated basal levels of sCD73 enzyme activity, before starting nivolumab treatment, were associated with lower response rates to therapy.

Conclusions: We observed a significant association between the activity of sCD73 in the blood and clinical outcomes in patients with metastatic melanoma stage IV, receiving nivolumab. Although our results need to be confirmed and validated, we suggest that sCD73 might be used as serologic prognostic biomarker. Potentially evaluating sCD73 enzyme activity in the peripheral blood before treatment could help to estimate the response to nivolumab.

Keywords: Biomarker; Immunotherapy; Melanoma; Nivolumab; Soluble CD73.

MeSH terms

  • 5'-Nucleotidase / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Monophosphate / metabolism
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nivolumab
  • Prognosis
  • Solubility
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • Nivolumab
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • 5'-Nucleotidase
  • NT5E protein, human