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Tocilizumab in Patients with Symptomatic Kaposi sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV)- associated Multicentric Castleman disease


2020 Thomas Uldrick


Signatures of oral microbiome in HIV-infected individuals with oral Kaposi's sarcoma and cell-associated KSHV DNA

PLoS Pathog

2020 Thomas Uldrick

Infection by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is necessary for the development of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), which most often develops in HIV-infected individuals. KS frequently has oral manifestations and KSHV DNA can be detected in oral cells. Numerous types of cancer are associated with the alteration of microbiome including bacteria and virus. We hypothesize that oral bacterial microbiota affects or is affected by oral KS and the presence of oral cell-associated KSHV DNA. In this study, oral and blood specimens were collected from a cohort of HIV/KSHV-coinfected individuals all previously diagnosed with KS, and were classified as having oral KS with any oral cell-associated KSHV DNA status (O-KS, n = 9), no oral KS but with oral cell-associated KSHV DNA (O-KSHV, n = 10), or with neither oral KS nor oral cell-associated KSHV DNA (No KSHV, n = 10). We sequenced the hypervariable V1-V2 region of the 16S rRNA gene present in oral cell-associated DNA by next generation sequencing. The diversity, richness, relative abundance of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and taxonomic composition of oral microbiota were analyzed and compared across the 3 studied groups. We found impoverishment of oral microbial diversity and enrichment of specific microbiota in O-KS individuals compared to O-KSHV or No KSHV individuals. These results suggest that HIV/KSHV coinfection and oral microbiota might impact one another and influence the development of oral KS.

Intratumoral Plasmid IL12 Electroporation Therapy in Patients with Advanced Melanoma Induces Systemic and Intratumoral T-cell Responses

Cancer Immunol Res

2020 Robert Pierce

Whereas systemic IL-12 is associated with potentially life-threatening toxicity, intra-tumoral delivery of IL-12 through tavokinogene telseplasmid electroporation (tavo) is safe and can induce tumor regression at distant sites. The mechanism by which these responses are mediated is unknown, but is presumed to result from a cellular immune response. In a phase II clinical trial of tavo (NCT01502293), samples from 28 cutaneous melanoma patients with in-transit disease were assessed for immune responses induced with this treatment. Within the blood circulating immune cell population, we found that the frequencies of circulating PD-1+ CD4+ and CD8+ T cells declined with treatment. Circulating immune responses to gp100 were also detected following treatment as measured by IFN-γ ELISPOT. Patients with a greater antigen-specific circulating immune response also had higher numbers of CD8+ T cells within the tumor. Clinical response was also associated with increased intratumoral CD3+ T cells. Finally, intratumoral T cell clonality and convergence were increased after treatment, indicating a focusing of the TCR repertoire. These results indicated that local treatment with tavo can induce a systemic T cell response and recruit T cells to the tumor microenvironment.

Identifying and targeting pathogenic PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling in IL-6 blockade-refractory idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease

J Clin Invest

2019 Thomas Uldrick

BACKGROUND: Idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease (iMCD) is a hematologic illness involving cytokine-induced lymphoproliferation, systemic inflammation, cytopenias, and life-threatening multi-organ dysfunction. The molecular underpinnings of interleukin-6(IL-6)-blockade refractory patients remain unknown; no targeted therapies exist. In this study, we searched for therapeutic targets in IL-6-blockade refractory iMCD patients with the thrombocytopenia, anasarca, fever/elevated C-reactive protein, reticulin myelofibrosis, renal dysfunction, organomegaly (TAFRO) clinical subtype. METHODS: We analyzed tissues and blood samples from three IL-6-blockade refractory iMCD-TAFRO patients. Cytokine panels, quantitative serum proteomics, flow cytometry of PBMCs, and pathway analyses were employed to identify novel therapeutic targets. To confirm elevated mTOR signaling, a candidate therapeutic target from the above assays, immunohistochemistry was performed for phosphorylated S6, a read-out of mTOR activation, in three iMCD lymph node tissue samples and controls. Proteomic, immunophenotypic, and clinical response assessments were performed to quantify the effects of administration of the mTOR inhibitor, sirolimus. RESULTS: Studies of three IL-6-blockade refractory iMCD cases revealed increased CD8+ T cell activation, VEGF-A, and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway activity. Administration of sirolimus significantly attenuated CD8+ T cell activation and decreased VEGF-A levels. Sirolimus induced clinical benefit responses in all three patients with durable and ongoing remissions of 66, 19, and 19 months. CONCLUSION: This precision medicine approach identifies PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling as the first pharmacologically-targetable pathogenic process in IL-6-blockade refractory iMCD. Prospective evaluation of sirolimus in treatment-refractory iMCD is planned (NCT03933904). FUNDING: Castleman's Awareness & Research Effort/Castleman Disease Collaborative Network, Penn Center for Precision Medicine, University Research Foundation, Intramural NIH funding, and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

The Contribution of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus to Mortality in Hospitalized Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Patients Being Investigated for Tuberculosis in South Africa

J Infect Dis

2019 Thomas Uldrick

BACKGROUND: Despite increasing numbers of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected South Africans receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), tuberculosis (TB) remains the leading cause of mortality. Approximately 25% of patients treated for TB have microbiologically unconfirmed diagnoses. We assessed whether elevated Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) viral load (VL) contributes to mortality in hospitalized HIV-infected patients investigated for TB. METHODS: Six hundred eighty-two HIV-infected patients admitted to Khayelitsha Hospital, South Africa, were recruited, investigated for TB, and followed for 12 weeks. KSHV serostatus, peripheral blood KSHV-VL, and KSHV-associated clinical correlates were evaluated. RESULTS: Median CD4 count was 62 (range, 0-526) cells/muL; KSHV seropositivity was 30.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 27%-34%); 5.8% had detectable KSHV-VL (median, 199.1 [range, 13.4-2.2 x 106] copies/106 cells); 22% died. Elevated KSHV-VL was associated with mortality (adjusted odds ratio, 6.5 [95% CI, 1.3-32.4]) in patients without TB or other microbiologically confirmed coinfections (n = 159). Six patients had "possible KSHV-inflammatory cytokine syndrome" (KICS): 5 died, representing significantly worse survival (P < .0001), and 1 patient was diagnosed with KSHV-associated multicentric Castleman disease at autopsy. CONCLUSIONS: Given the association of mortality with elevated KSHV-VL in critically ill HIV-infected patients with suspected but not microbiologically confirmed TB, KSHV-VL and KICS criteria may guide diagnostic and therapeutic evaluation.

Intratumoral delivery of an HPV vaccine elicits a broad anti-tumor immune response that translates into a potent anti-tumor effect in a preclinical murine HPV model

Cancer Immunol Immunother

2019 Robert Pierce; Jean Campbell

Therapeutic cancer vaccines have met limited clinical success. In the setting of cancer, the immune system is either tolerized and/or has a limited tumor-specific T cell repertoire. In this study, we explore whether intratumoral (IT) vaccination with an HPV vaccine can elicit quantitative and qualitative differences in immune response as compared to intramuscular (IM) vaccination to overcome immune resistance in established tumors. We report that IT administration of an HPV-16 E7 peptide vaccine formulated with polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid [poly(I:C)] generated an enhanced antitumor effect relative to IM delivery. The elicited anti-tumor effect with IT vaccination was consistent among the vaccinated groups and across various C57BL/6 substrains. IT vaccination resulted in an increased frequency of PD-1(hi) TILs, which represented both vaccine-targeted and non-vaccine-targeted tumor-specific CD8(+) T cells. Overall, the CD8(+)/Treg ratio was increased within the tumor microenvironment using IT vaccination. We also assessed transcriptional changes in several immune-related genes in the tumor microenvironment of the various treated groups, and our data suggest that IT vaccination leads to upregulation of a broad complement of immunomodulatory genes, including upregulation of interferon gamma (IFNgamma) and antigen presentation and processing machine (APM) components. IT vaccine delivery is superior to traditional IM vaccination routes with the potential to improve tumor immunogenicity, which has potential clinical application in the setting of accessible lesions such as head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs).

Are There Clues to Oral KSHV Shedding and Kaposi Sarcoma Oncogenesis in the Oral Microbiome?

J Infect Dis

2019 Thomas Uldrick


Viral, immunologic, and clinical features of primary effusion lymphoma


2019 Thomas Uldrick

Primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) is an aggressive HIV-associated lymphoma with a relatively poor prognosis in the era of effective HIV therapy. Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) is the etiologic agent, and approximately 80% of tumors are coinfected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). A better understanding of how KSHV-related immune dysregulation contributes to the natural history of PEL will improve outcomes. Twenty patients with PEL diagnosed between 2000 and 2013, including 19 treated with modified infusional etoposide, vincristine, and doxorubicin with cyclophosphamide and prednisone (EPOCH), were identified. We compared their clinical, virologic, and immunologic features vs 20 patients with HIV-associated diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and 19 patients with symptomatic interleukin (IL)-6 related KSHV-associated multicentric Castleman disease. Survival analyses of treated patients with PEL were then performed to identify prognostic factors and cancer-specific mortality. Compared with HIV-associated diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, PEL was associated with significant hypoalbuminemia (P < .0027), thrombocytopenia (P = .0045), and elevated IL-10 levels (P < .0001). There were no significant differences in these parameters between PEL and KSHV-associated multicentric Castleman disease. Median overall survival in treated patients with PEL was 22 months, with a plateau in survival noted after 2 years. Three-year cancer-specific survival was 47%. EBV-positive tumor status was associated with improved survival (hazard ratio, 0.27; P = .038), and elevated IL-6 level was associated with inferior survival (hazard ratio, 6.1; P = .024). Our analysis shows that IL-6 and IL-10 levels contribute to the natural history of PEL. Inflammatory cytokines and tumor EBV status are the strongest prognostic factors. Pathogenesis-directed first-line regimens are needed to improve overall survival in PEL.

Durable Tumor Regression and Overall Survival in Patients With Advanced Merkel Cell Carcinoma Receiving Pembrolizumab as First-Line Therapy

J Clin Oncol

2019 Lisa Lundgren; Steven Fling; Martin Cheever; Shailender Bhatia; Paul Nghiem; Nirasha Ramchurren; Michi Shinohara

PURPOSE: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive skin cancer often caused by the Merkel cell polyomavirus. Clinical trials of programmed cell death-1 pathway inhibitors for advanced MCC (aMCC) demonstrate increased progression-free survival (PFS) compared with historical chemotherapy data. However, response durability and overall survival (OS) data are limited. PATIENTS AND METHODS: In this multicenter phase II trial (Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network-09/Keynote-017), 50 adults naive to systemic therapy for aMCC received pembrolizumab (2 mg/kg every 3 weeks) for up to 2 years. Radiographic responses were assessed centrally per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) v1.1. RESULTS: Among 50 patients, the median age was 70.5 years, and 64% had Merkel cell polyomavirus-positive tumors. The objective response rate (ORR) to pembrolizumab was 56% (complete response [24%] plus partial response [32%]; 95% CI, 41.3% to 70.0%), with ORRs of 59% in virus-positive and 53% in virus-negative tumors. Median follow-up time was 14.9 months (range, 0.4 to 36.4+ months). Among 28 responders, median response duration was not reached (range, 5.9 to 34.5+ months). The 24-month PFS rate was 48.3%, and median PFS time was 16.8 months (95% CI, 4.6 months to not estimable). The 24-month OS rate was 68.7%, and median OS time was not reached. Although tumor viral status did not correlate with ORR, PFS, or OS, there was a trend toward improved PFS and OS in patients with programmed death ligand-1-positive tumors. Grade 3 or greater treatment-related adverse events occurred in 14 (28%) of 50 patients and led to treatment discontinuation in seven (14%) of 50 patients, including one treatment-related death. CONCLUSION: Here, we present the longest observation to date of patients with aMCC receiving first-line anti-programmed cell death-1 therapy. Pembrolizumab demonstrated durable tumor control, a generally manageable safety profile, and favorable OS compared with historical data from patients treated with first-line chemotherapy.

Tuberculosis following PD-1 blockade for cancer immunotherapy

Sci Transl Med

2019 Lisa Lundgren; Martin Cheever; Paul Nghiem

Because of the well-established therapeutic benefit of boosting antitumor responses through blockade of the T cell inhibitory receptor PD-1, it has been proposed that PD-1 blockade could also be useful in infectious disease settings, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection. However, in preclinical models, Mtb-infected PD-1(-/-) mice mount exaggerated TH1 responses that drive lethal immunopathology. Multiple cases of tuberculosis during PD-1 blockade have been observed in patients with cancer, but in humans little is understood about Mtb-specific immune responses during checkpoint blockade-associated tuberculosis. Here, we report two more cases. We describe a patient who succumbed to disseminated tuberculosis after PD-1 blockade for treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and we examine Mtb-specific immune responses in a patient with Merkel cell carcinoma who developed checkpoint blockade-associated tuberculosis and was successfully treated for the infection. After anti-PD-1 administration, interferon-gamma-producing Mtb-specific CD4 T cells became more prevalent in the blood, and a tuberculoma developed a few months thereafter. Mtb-specific TH17 cells, CD8 T cells, regulatory T cells, and antibody abundance did not change before the appearance of the granuloma. These results are consistent with the murine model data and suggest that boosting TH1 function with PD-1 blockade may increase the risk or severity of tuberculosis in humans.