Immune checkpoint blockade involving inhibition of the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction has provided unprecedented clinical benefits in treating a variety of tumors. To date, a total of six antibodies that bind to either PD-1 or PD-L1 protein and in turn inhibit the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction have received clinical approvals. Despite being highly effective, these expensive large biotherapeutics possess several inherent pharmacokinetic limitations that can be successfully overcome through the use of low-molecular-weight inhibitors. One such promising approach involves small-molecule induced dimerization and sequestration of PD-L1, leading to effective PD-1/PD-L1 inhibition. Herein, we present the discovery of such potential bioactive PD-L1 dimerizers through a structure- and ligand-based screening of a focused library of approved and investigational drugs worldwide. Pyrvinium, an FDA-approved anthelmintic drug, showed the highest activity in our study with IC50 value of ∼29.66 μM. It is noteworthy that Pyrvinium, being an approved drug, may prove especially suitable as a good starting point for further medicinal chemistry efforts, leading to design and development of even more potent structural analogs as selective PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors. Furthermore, the adopted integrated virtual screening protocol may prove useful in screening other larger databases of lead- and drug-like molecules for hit identification in the domain of small-molecule PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors.
Keywords: Cancer; Immunology; PD-1/PD-L1; Pyrvinium; Small-molecule inhibitor.
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