irRECIST for the Evaluation of Candidate Biomarkers of Response to Nivolumab in Metastatic Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma: Analysis of a Phase II Prospective Clinical Trial

Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Apr 1;25(7):2174-2184. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-3206. Epub 2019 Jan 22.


Purpose: Immune-related RECIST (irRECIST) were designed to capture atypical responses seen with immunotherapy. We hypothesized that, in patients with metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (mccRCC), candidate biomarkers for nivolumab response would show improved association with clinical endpoints capturing atypical responders (irRECIST) compared with standard clinical endpoints (RECISTv1.1).

Experimental design: Endpoints based on RECISTv1.1 [objective response rate (ORR)/progression-free survival (PFS)] or irRECIST [immune-related ORR (irORR)/immune-related PFS (irPFS)] were compared in patients enrolled in the CheckMate-010 trial. Pretreatment tumors were analyzed by PD-L1 and PD-L2 IHC, and by multiplex immunofluorescence for CD8, PD-1, TIM-3, and LAG-3. T-cell activation signatures were assessed by RNA sequencing.

Results: Median irPFS was significantly longer than median PFS. irORR was not significantly different from ORR, but immune-related progressive disease (irPD) rate was significantly lower than progressive disease (PD) rate. Tumor cell (TC) PD-L1 expression was not associated with PFS or ORR, but patients with TC PD-L1 ≥1% had longer median irPFS and higher irORR. High percentage of CD8+ tumor-infiltrating cells (TIC) that are PD-1+TIM-3-LAG-3- (% CD8+PD-1+TIM-3-LAG-3- TIC) correlated with high levels of T-cell activation and was associated with longer median irPFS and higher irORR. Notably, combination of TC PD-L1 expression with % CD8+PD-1+TIM-3-LAG-3- TIC identified three groups of patients for which irPFS and irORR were significantly different.

Conclusions: Atypical responders to nivolumab were identified in the CheckMate-010 trial. We observed improved association of candidate biomarkers for nivolumab response with endpoints defined by irRECIST compared with RECISTv1.1. TC PD-L1 expression in combination with PD-1 expression on CD8+ TIC may predict outcome on nivolumab in mccRCC.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / mortality
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Kidney Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / etiology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nivolumab / administration & dosage
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects
  • Nivolumab / therapeutic use*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prognosis


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Nivolumab