PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors

Micrograph showing a PD-L1 positive lung adenocarcinoma. Positive immunostaining can predict response to the treatment.

PD-1 inhibitors and PD-L1 inhibitors are a group of checkpoint inhibitor anticancer drugs that block the activity of PD-1 and PDL1 immune checkpoint proteins present on the surface of cells. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are emerging as a front-line treatment for several types of cancer.

PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors act to inhibit the association of the programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) with its receptor, programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1). The interaction of these cell surface proteins is involved in the suppression of the immune system and occurs following infection to limit the killing of bystander host cells and prevent autoimmune disease. This immune checkpoint is also active in pregnancy, following tissue allografts, and in different types of cancer.



The concept of blocking PD-1 and PD-L1 for the treatment of cancer was first published in 2001. Pharmaceutical companies began attempting to develop drugs to block these molecules, and the first clinical trial was launched in 2006, evaluating nivolumab. As of 2017, more than 500 clinical trials involving PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors have been conducted in more than 20,000 patients. By the end of 2017, PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors had been approved for the treatment of nine forms of cancer.

Cancer immunotherapy

In the cancer disease state, the interaction of PD-L1 on the tumor cells with PD-1 on a T-cell reduces T-cell function signals to prevent the immune system from attacking the tumor cells. Use of an inhibitor that blocks the interaction of PD-L1 with the PD-1 receptor can prevent the cancer from evading the immune system in this way. Several PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors are being trialled within the clinic for use in advanced melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, bladder cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma, amongst other cancer types.

Immunotherapy with these immune checkpoint inhibitors appears to shrink tumour... ...read more

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