Blocking the activity of the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitory receptor with therapeutic antibodies against either the ligand (PD-L1) or PD-1 itself has proven to be an effective treatment modality for multiple cancers. Contrasting with antibodies, small molecules could demonstrate increased tissue penetration, distinct pharmacology, and potentially enhanced antitumor activity. Here, we describe the identification and characterization of INCB086550, a novel, oral, small-molecule PD-L1 inhibitor. In vitro, INCB086550 selectively and potently blocked the PD-L1/PD-1 interaction, induced PD-L1 dimerization and internalization, and induced stimulation-dependent cytokine production in primary human immune cells. In vivo, INCB086550 reduced tumor growth in CD34+ humanized mice and induced T-cell activation gene signatures, consistent with PD-L1/PD-1 pathway blockade. Preliminary data from an ongoing phase I study confirmed PD-L1/PD-1 blockade in peripheral blood cells, with increased immune activation and tumor growth control. These data support continued clinical evaluation of INCB086550 as an alternative to antibody-based therapies.

Significance:

We have identified a potent small-molecule inhibitor of PD-L1, INCB086550, which has biological properties similar to PD-L1/PD-1 monoclonal antibodies and may represent an alternative to antibody therapy. Preliminary clinical data in patients demonstrated increased immune activation and tumor growth control, which support continued clinical evaluation of this approach.

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Supplementary data