Background: NIZ985 is a recombinant heterodimer of physiologically active interleukin (IL-)15 and IL-15 receptor alpha. In preclinical models, NIZ985 promotes cytotoxic lymphocyte proliferation, killing function, and organ/tumor infiltration, with resultant anticancer effects. In this first-in-human study, we assessed the safety, pharmacokinetics, and immune effects of NIZ985 in patients with metastatic or unresectable solid tumors.
Methods: Single agent NIZ985 dose escalation data are reported from a phase I dose escalation/expansion study of NIZ985 as monotherapy. Adult patients (N=14) received 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2 or 4 µg/kg subcutaneous NIZ985 three times weekly (TIW) for the first 2 weeks of each 28-day cycle, in an accelerated 3+3 dose escalation trial design. IL-15 and endogenous cytokines were monitored by ELISA and multiplexed electrochemiluminescent assays. Multiparameter flow cytometry assessed the frequency, phenotype and proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Preliminary antitumor activity was assessed by overall response rate (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors V.1.1).
Results: As of March 2, 2020, median treatment duration was 7.5 weeks (range 1.1-77.1). Thirteen patients had discontinued and one (uveal melanoma) remains on treatment with stable disease. Best clinical response was stable disease (3 of 14 patients; 21%). The most frequent adverse events (AEs) were circular erythematous injection site reactions (100%), chills (71%), fatigue (57%), and fever (50%). Treatment-related grade 3/4 AEs occurred in six participants (43%); treatment-related serious AEs (SAEs) in three (21%). The per-protocol maximum tolerated dose was not reached. Pharmacokinetic accumulation of serum IL-15 in the first week was followed by significantly lower levels in week 2, likely due to more rapid cytokine consumption by an expanding lymphocyte pool. NIZ985 treatment was associated with increases in several cytokines, including interferon (IFN)-γ, IL-18, C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 10, and tumor necrosis factor-β, plus significant induction of cytotoxic lymphocyte proliferation (including natural killer and CD8+ T cells), increased CD16+ monocytes, and increased CD163+ macrophages at injection sites.
Conclusions: Subcutaneous NIZ985 TIW was generally well tolerated in patients with advanced cancer and produced immune activation paralleling preclinical observations, with induction of IFN-γ and proliferation of cytotoxic lymphocytes. Due to delayed SAEs at the two highest dose levels, administration is being changed to once-weekly in a revised protocol, as monotherapy and combined with checkpoint inhibitor spartalizumab. These alterations are expected to maximize the potential of NIZ985 as a novel immunotherapy.
Trial registration number: NCT02452268.
Keywords: clinical trials as topic; cytokines; immunomodulation; immunotherapy; investigational; therapies.
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.