Theranostics 2022; 12(2):747-766. doi:10.7150/thno.65828 This issue

Research Paper

Nintedanib enhances the efficacy of PD-L1 blockade by upregulating MHC-I and PD-L1 expression in tumor cells

Jingyao Tu1, Haoran Xu2, Li Ma1, Chunya Li1, Wan Qin1, Xinyi Chen1, Ming Yi1, Li Sun1✉, Bo Liu1✉, Xianglin Yuan1✉

1. Department of Oncology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.
2. Department of Orthopedics, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.

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Citation:
Tu J, Xu H, Ma L, Li C, Qin W, Chen X, Yi M, Sun L, Liu B, Yuan X. Nintedanib enhances the efficacy of PD-L1 blockade by upregulating MHC-I and PD-L1 expression in tumor cells. Theranostics 2022; 12(2):747-766. doi:10.7150/thno.65828. Available from https://www.thno.org/v12p0747.htm

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Abstract

Graphic abstract

Background: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), such as programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1)/programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), have been widely applied in clinical and scientific research. Despite their effective antitumor effects in clinical tumor therapy, most tumors are still resistant to ICIs and long-term benefits are lacking. In addition, tumor patients complicated with interstitial lung disease limit the application of ICI therapy. Therefore, for these cases, there is an urgent need to develop new methods to relieve lung complications and enhance the efficacy of ICI therapy. Nintedanib, a potent triple angiokinase inhibitor approved for the treatment of progressive fibrotic interstitial lung disease. However, its immunotherapy synergy properties and mechanism are still pending further exploration.

Methods: To explore the therapeutic potential of nintedanib and αPD-L1 combination therapy, MC38, LLC, and 4T1 tumor models were used to investigate antitumor and antimetastatic activities in vivo. An idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis-tumor bearing model was used to evaluate the effect of the synergy therapy on tumor model complicated with lung disease. Moreover, RNA-seq, immunohistochemistry, and flow cytometry were utilized to analyze the effect of combination treatment on the tumor microenvironment. The bioactivity following different treatments was determined by western blotting, CCK-8, and flow cytometry.

Results: In this study, nintedanib and αPD-L1 synergy therapy exhibited significant antitumor, antimetastatic and anti-pulmonary fibrosis effects. Both in vitro and in vivo experiments revealed that these effects included promoting vessel normalization, increasing infiltration and activation of immune cells in tumors, enhancing the response of interferon-gamma, and activating the MHC class I-mediated antigen presentation process. Moreover, our results showed an increased expression of PD-L1 and promoted phosphorylation of STAT3 after nintedanib (1 µM) treatment.

Conclusion: The combination of nintedanib and αPD-L1 increased ICI therapy responses, relieved lung complications and further activated the tumor immune microenvironment; thus, exhibiting a notable antitumor effect. Accordingly, the nintedanib synergy strategy is expected to be a promising candidate therapy for tumor patients complicated with interstitial lung disease in clinical practice.

Keywords: Cancer immunotherapy, Nintedanib, PD-L1, MHC class I, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis