Combination of oligo-fractionated irradiation with nivolumab can induce immune modulation in gastric cancer

January, 01, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles


Tumor-associated antigen (TAA)-specific CD8(+) T cells are essential for nivolumab therapy, and irradiation has been reported to have the potential to generate and activate TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells. However, mechanistic insights of T-cell response during combinatorial immunotherapy using radiotherapy and nivolumab are still largely unknown.


Twenty patients included in this study were registered in the CIRCUIT trial (, NCT03453164). All patients had multiple distant metastases and were intolerance or had progressed after primary and secondary chemotherapy without any immune checkpoint inhibitor. In the CIRCUIT trial, eligible patients were treated with a total of 22.5 Gy/5 fractions/5 days of radiotherapy to the largest or symptomatic lesion prior to receiving nivolumab every 2 weeks. In these 20 patients, T-cell responses during the combinatorial immunotherapy were monitored longitudinally by high-dimensional flow cytometry-based, multiplexed major histocompatibility complex multimer analysis using a total of 46 TAAs and 10 virus epitopes, repertoire analysis of T-cell receptor β-chain (TCRβ), together with circulating tumor DNA analysis to evaluate tumor mutational burden (TMB).


Although most TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells could be tracked longitudinally, several TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells were detected de novo after irradiation, but viral-specific CD8(+) T cells did not show obvious changes during treatment, indicating potential irradiation-driven antigen spreading. Irradiation was associated with phenotypical changes of TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells towards higher expression of killer cell lectin-like receptor subfamily G, member 1, human leukocyte antigen D-related antigen, T-cell immunoglobulin and immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif domain, CD160, and CD45RO together with lower expression of CD27 and CD127. Of importance, TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells in non-progressors frequently showed a phenotype of CD45RO(+)CD27(+)CD127(+) central memory T cells compared with those in progressors. TCRβ clonality (inverted Pielou’s evenness) increased and TCRβ diversity (Pielou’s evenness and Diversity Evenness score) decreased during treatment in progressors (p=0.029, p=0.029, p=0.012, respectively). TMB score was significantly lower in non-progressors after irradiation (p=0.023).


Oligo-fractionated irradiation induces an immune-modulating effect with potential antigen spreading and the combination of radiotherapy and nivolumab may be effective in a subset of patients with gastric cancer.

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