Introduction: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are considered as a “liquid biopsy” that allows the assessment of tumor changes over time. Tumor cells may escape from the immune system through the activation of PD-1/PD-L1 axis. Targeting these molecules with monoclonal antibodies has shown encouraging results at many types of cancers, including NSCLC. In the current study we investigated the expression of PD-1/PD-L1 molecules on the CTCs isolated from NSCLC patients treated with Nivolumab.

Methods: CTCs were isolated based on their size using the ISET platform from 27 patients before treatment, after 1 cycle and 3 cycles. CTCs were detected with Giemsa staining and immunofluorescence (IF) experiments, using either pancytokeratin (A45-B/B3) (CK7)/PD-1/CD45 or (A45-B/B3)(CK7)/PD-L1/CD45 combination of antibodies and analysis with the ARIOL system. Spiking experiments using the NSCLC cell lines: H460, H1299, HCC827 and SKMES in normal blood were used to evaluate the detection method.

Results: Giemsa evaluation in Nivolumab-treated patients at baseline (25 evaluable samples), after the 1st (9 evaluable samples) and the 3rd (8 evaluable patients) cycle of treatment showed that CTCs could be detected in 48% (12/25), 33.3% (3/9) and 50% (4/8) of patients, respectively. IF could also reveal the presence of CK-positive cells in 44.4% (12/27), 22% (2/9) and 75% (6/8) patients, respectively. PD-1 (+) CTCs were detected in 33.3% (4/12) of patients at baseline, in, 0% after the 1 and 16.7% (1/6) of patients after the 3rd cycle. The same percentages were identified for PD-L1 expression in the same cohort of patients. The expression of PD-1 at baseline was associated with poorer OS (p=0.022) and PFS (p=0.011), while the expression of PD-L1 was associated with shorter PFS (p=0.011). Multivariate analysis revealed that the presence of CK-positive cells is an independent prognostic factor for OS (p=0.028)

Conclusion: Nivolumab reduced the number of PD-1- and PD-L1-expressing CTCs in advanced NSCLC patients. Furthermore the expression of both markers at baseline is associated with the clinical outcome.

Citation Format: Galatea Kallergi, Anastasios Koutsopoulos, Eleni Lagoudaki, Despoina Agouraki, Eleni-Kiriaki Vetsika, Anastasia Voumvouraki, Stuart S. Martin, Filippos Koinis, Christos Stournaras, Vassilis Georgoulias, Athanasios Kotsakis. Detection of PD-L1 and PD-1 positive circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients treated with nivolumab [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 1587.