Immune microenvironment of basal cell carcinoma and tumor regression following combined PD-1/LAG-3 blockade

January, 01, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles

Systemic treatment options for patients with locally advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are limited, particularly when tumors are refractory to anti-programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1). A better understanding of immune checkpoint expression within the BCC tumor microenvironment may inform combinatorial treatment strategies to optimize response rates. CD3, PD-1, programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1), lymphocyte activation gene 3 (LAG-3), and T-cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain 3 (TIM-3)+ cell densities within the tumor microenvironment of 34 archival, histologically aggressive BCCs were assessed. Tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) expression of PD-1, PD-L1, and LAG-3, and to a lesser degree TIM-3, correlated with increasing CD3+ T-cell densities (Pearson’s r=0.89, 0.72, 0.87, and 0.63, respectively). 100% of BCCs (34/34) demonstrated LAG-3 and PD-1 expression in >1% TIL; and the correlation between PD-1 and LAG-3 densities was high (Pearson’s r=0.89). LAG-3 was expressed at ~50% of the level of PD-1. Additionally, we present a patient with locally-advanced BCC who experienced stable disease during and after 45 weeks of first-line anti-PD-1 (nivolumab), followed by a partial response after the addition of anti-LAG-3 (relatlimab). Longitudinal biopsies throughout the treatment course showed a graduated increase in LAG-3 expression after anti-PD-1 therapy, lending support for coordinated immunosuppression and suggesting LAG-3 as a co-target for combination therapy to augment the clinical impact of anti-PD-(L)1.

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