Enhanced neoepitope-specific immunity following neoadjuvant PD-L1 and TGF-β blockade in HPV-unrelated head and neck cancer

Jason M. Redman, Jay Friedman, Yvette Robbins, Cem Sievers, Xinping Yang, Wiem Lassoued, Andrew Sinkoe, Antonios Papanicolau-Sengos, Chyi Chia Lee, Jennifer L. Marte, Evrim Turkbey, Wojtek Mydlarz, Arjun Joshi, Nyall R. London, Matthew Pierce, Rodney Taylor, Steven Hong, Andy Nguyen, Patrick Soon-Shiong, Jeffrey SchlomJames L. Gulley, Clint T. Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma not associated with HPV (HPV-unrelated HNSCC) is associated with a high rate of recurrence and poor survival. Methods. We conducted a clinical trial in 14 patients with newly diagnosed HPV-unrelated HNSCC to evaluate the safety and efficacy of neoadjuvant bintrafusp alfa, a bifunctional fusion protein that blocks programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) and neutralizes TGF-β. Results. Bintrafusp alfa was well tolerated, and no treatment-associated surgical delays or complications occurred. Objective pathologic responses (PRs) were observed, and 12 of the 14 (86%) patients were alive and disease free at 1 year. Alterations in Treg infiltration and spatial distribution relative to proliferating CD8+ T cells indicated a reversal of Treg immunosuppression in the primary tumor. Detection of neoepitope-specific tumor T cell responses, but not virus-specific responses, correlated with the development of a PR. Detection of neoepitope-specific responses and PRs in tumors was not correlated with genomic features or tumor antigenicity but was associated with reduced pretreatment myeloid cell tumor infiltration. These results indicate that dual PD-L1 and TGF-β blockade can safely enhance tumor antigen-specific immunity and highlight the feasibility of multimechanism neoadjuvant immunotherapy for patients with HPV-unrelated HNSCC. Conclusion. Our studies provide insight into the ability of neoadjuvant immunotherapy to induce polyclonal neoadjuvant- specific T cell responses in tumors and suggest that features of the tumor microenvironment, such as myeloid cell infiltration, may be a major determinant of enhanced antitumor immunity following such treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere161400
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number18
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


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