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A Combination of Cytokine-Induced Killer Cells With PD-1 Blockade and ALK Inhibitor Showed Substantial Intrinsic Variability Across Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell Lines

Background: Cancer heterogeneity poses a serious challenge concerning the toxicity and adverse effects of therapeutic inhibitors, especially when it comes to combinatorial therapies that involve multiple targeted inhibitors. In particular, in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a number of studies have reported synergistic effects of drug combinations in the preclinical models, while they were only partially successful in the clinical setup, suggesting those alternative clinical strategies (with genetic background and immune response) should be considered. Herein, we investigated the antitumor effect of cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells in combination with ALK and PD-1 inhibitors in vitro on genetically variable NSCLC cell lines.

Methods: We co-cultured the three genetically different NSCLC cell lines NCI-H2228 (EML4-ALK), A549 (KRAS mutation), and HCC-78 (ROS1 rearrangement) with and without nivolumab (PD-1 inhibitor) and crizotinib (ALK inhibitor). Additionally, we profiled the variability of surface expression multiple immune checkpoints, the concentration of absolute dead cells, intracellular granzyme B on CIK cells using flow cytometry as well as RT-qPCR. ELISA and Western blot were performed to verify the activation of CIK cells.

Results: Our analysis showed that (a) nivolumab significantly weakened PD-1 surface expression on CIK cells without impacting other immune checkpoints or PD-1 mRNA expression, (b) this combination strategy showed an effective response on cell viability, IFN-γ production, and intracellular release of granzyme B in CD3+ CD56+ CIK cells, but solely in NCI-H2228, (c) the intrinsic expression of Fas ligand (FasL) as a T-cell activation marker in CIK cells was upregulated by this additive effect, and (d) nivolumab induced Foxp3 expression in CD4+CD25+ subpopulation of CIK cells significantly increased. Taken together, we could show that CIK cells in combination with crizotinib and nivolumab can enhance the anti-tumor immune response through FasL activation, leading to increased IFN-γ and granzyme B, but only in NCI-H2228 cells with EML4-ALK rearrangement. Therefore, we hypothesize that CIK therapy may be a potential alternative in NSCLC patients harboring EML4-ALK rearrangement, in addition, we support the idea that combination therapies offer significant potential when they are optimized on a patient-by-patient basis.

Related Products

Cat.No. Product Name Information
S1068 Crizotinib (PF-02341066) Crizotinib (PF-02341066) is a potent inhibitor of c-Met and ALK with IC50 of 11 nM and 24 nM in cell-based assays, respectively. It is also a potent ROS1 inhibitor with Ki value less than 0.025 nM. Crizotinib induces autophagy through inhibition of the STAT3 pathway in multiple lung cancer cell lines.

Related Targets

ALK c-Met Autophagy