In a 17 patient, signal-generating phase II trial of metastatic triple negative breast cancer patients unselected for PD-L1 status, Ho and Barker et al. show that overlapping anti-PD-1 treatment with hypofractionated irradiation of a target lesion led to substantial and durable elimination of non-target lesions in an encouraging fraction of patients, including 3 complete responses in unirradiated lesions among the 9 women who remained on trial at the 13 week assessment point. Most patients were heavily pre-treated (median of 3 prior lines). Treatment was well tolerated. Retrospective PD-L1 assessment showed no correlation with response.
BACKGROUND: The current study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of pembrolizumab-mediated programmed cell death protein 1 inhibition plus radiotherapy (RT) in patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer who were unselected for programmed death-ligand 1 expression. METHODS: The current study was a single-arm, Simon 2-stage, phase 2 clinical trial that enrolled a total of 17 patients with a median age of 52 years (range, 37-73 years). An RT dose of 3000 centigrays (cGy) was delivered in 5 daily fractions. Pembrolizumab was administered intravenously at a dose of 200 mg within 3 days of the first RT fraction, and then every 3 weeks +/- 3 days until disease progression. The median follow-up was 34.5 weeks (range, 2.1-108.3 weeks). The primary endpoint of the current study was the overall response rate (ORR) at week 13 in patients with unirradiated lesions measured using Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST; version 1.1). Secondary endpoints included safety and progression-free survival. Exploratory objectives were to identify biomarkers predictive of ORR and progression-free survival. RESULTS: The ORR for the entire cohort was 17.6% (3 of 17 patients; 95% CI, 4.7%-44.2%), with 3 complete responses (CRs), 1 case of stable disease, and 13 cases of progressive disease. Eight patients died prior to week 13 due to disease progression. Among the 9 women assessed using RECIST version 1.1 at week 13, 3 (33%) achieved a CR, with a 100% reduction in tumor volume outside of the irradiated portal. The CRs were durable for 18 weeks, 20 weeks, and 108 weeks, respectively. The most common grade 1 to 2 toxicity (assessed according to the National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 4.0) was dermatitis (29%). Four grade 3 adverse events were attributed to pembrolizumab: fatigue, lymphopenia, and infection. No were no grade 4 adverse events or treatment-related deaths reported. CONCLUSIONS: The combination of pembrolizumab and RT was found to be safe and demonstrated encouraging activity in patients with poor-prognosis, metastatic, triple-negative breast cancer who were unselected for programmed death-ligand 1 expression. Larger clinical trials of checkpoint blockade plus RT with predictive biomarkers of response are needed.