Anlotinib Induces a T Cell-Inflamed Tumor Microenvironment by Facilitating Vessel Normalization and Enhances the Efficacy of PD-1 Checkpoint Blockade in Neuroblastoma

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Nov 29. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-2241. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Purpose: Anlotinib has achieved good results in clinical trials of a variety of cancers. However, the effects of anlotinib on the tumor microenvironment (TME) and systemic immunity have not been reported. There is an urgent need to identify the underlying mechanism to reveal new opportunities for its application in neuroblastoma (NB) and other cancers. Understanding the mechanism will hopefully achieve the goal of using the same method to treat different cancers.

Experimental design: This study used bioinformatics, NB syngeneic mouse models, flow cytometry, RNA-seq, and immunofluorescence staining to explore the mechanisms of anlotinib on the TME, and further explored anlotinib-containing combination treatment strategies.

Results: We proved that anlotinib facilitates tumor vessel normalization at least partially through CD4+ T cells, reprograms the immunosuppressive TME into an immunostimulatory TME, significantly inhibits tumor growth, and effectively prevents systemic immunosuppression. Moreover, the combination of anlotinib with a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor counteracts the immunosuppression caused by the upregulation of PD-L1 after monotherapy, extends the period of vascular normalization, and finally induces NB regression.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this study is the first to dynamically evaluate the effect of a multitarget antiangiogenic tyrosine kinase inhibitor on the TME. These findings have very important clinical value in guiding the testing of related drugs in NB and other cancers. Based on these findings, we are conducting a phase II clinical study (NCT04842526) on the efficacy and safety of anlotinib, irinotecan, and temozolomide in the treatment of refractory or relapsed NB, and hopefully we will observe patient benefit.