Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have transformed the management of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Unfortunately, over 50% of patients do not respond to these therapies. Combination strategies with chemotherapy-ICIs show progress, but long-term responses remain rare, pointing to the role for other tumor-associated mechanisms affecting functionality of immune cells. Adenosinergic signaling has recently emerged as a powerful immuno-metabolic regulator within the tumor microenvironment (TME) exploited by tumors to promote their growth and suppress immunity. Preclinical studies on interference with adenosine generation or signaling through A2A and A2B adenosine receptors (A2BAR) have demonstrated efficacy in relieving this immunosuppression by reducing stress in the TME and decreasing expression of key adenosine-generating enzymes, thereby enhancing efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibition. A2BAR blockade in particular enhanced anti-tumor immunity through both a reduction in myeloid-derived suppressor cell differentiation and an enhancement of the capacity of dendritic cells to evoke anti-tumor T cell responses. These findings provide strong rationale for clinical applications of A2BAR antagonists in combination with current ICIs. To determine whether disruption of A2BAR signaling has the potential to improve upon single agent PD-1 immunotherapy, we propose a phase Ib clinical trial testing the A2BAR antagonist PBF-1129 in combination with nivolumab in patients with metastatic NSCLC. The primary objective of the clinical study is to evaluate the safety and tolerability of combination PBF-1129 with nivolumab; preliminary evidence of efficacy will be evaluated in an expansion cohort. Analysis of pre- and on- treatment blood and tumor samples will be conducted to evaluate the correlation between and immunological parameters and adenosine generation and signaling, and to evaluate the efficacy of PBF-1129 in targeting adenosine-mediated immunosuppression. Finally, we intend to further elucidate mechanisms of metabolic TME and immune regulation by adenosine in pre-clinical cancer models and test the combined PBF-1129/anti-PD-1 approach to ameliorate metabolic TME using a novel imaging modality. Together, we expect that A2BAR antagonist treatment combined with nivolumab will be a safe, effective approach targeting different mechanisms of immunosuppression and tumor growth in metastatic NSCLC patients, that we will uncover immunological profiles reflective of adenosinergic signaling disruption in these patients, and that we will demonstrate the utility of a novel combined imaging approach for evaluation of adenosine targeting in the TME.

Public Health Relevance

The grant application capitalizes on the advances in the adenosine receptor biology and understanding their roles in mediating cancer immunosuppression. It proposes clinical trial to test inhibition of A2B adenosine receptor with a specific antagonist PBF-1129 as a novel approach to enhance efficacy on anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. Animal studies are also proposed to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the regulation of anti-tumor immune responses by adenosine and metabolic tumor microenvironment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Clinical Oncology Study Section (CONC)
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Timmer, William C
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Ohio State University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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