Low-Dose Cyclophosphamide Induces Antitumor T-Cell Responses, which Associate with Survival in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.
Scurr M., Pembroke T., Bloom A., Roberts D., Thomson A., Smart K., Bridgeman H., Adams R., Brewster A., Jones R., Gwynne S., Blount D., Harrop R., Hills R., Gallimore A., Godkin A.
Purpose: Anticancer T-cell responses can control tumors, but immunosuppressive mechanisms in vivo prevent their function. The role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in metastatic colorectal cancer is unclear. We have previously shown depletion of Tregs enhances colorectal cancer-specific effector T-cell responses. Low-dose cyclophosphamide targets Tregs in animal models and some human studies; however, the effect of cyclophosphamide in metastatic colorectal cancer is unknown.Experimental Design: Fifty-five patients with metastatic colorectal cancer were enrolled in a phase I/II trial and randomly assigned to receive 2-week-long courses of low-dose (50 mg twice a day) cyclophosphamide or not. The absolute number, phenotype, and antitumor function of peripheral blood-derived lymphocyte subsets were monitored throughout treatment, as well as during 18-month follow-up.Results: Initially, cyclophosphamide reduced proliferation in all lymphocyte subsets; however, a rapid mobilization of effector T cells overcame this decrease, leading to increased absolute T-cell numbers. In contrast, a reduction in proportional and absolute Treg, B-cell, and NK-cell numbers occurred. The expansion and subsequent activation of effector T cells was focused on tumor-specific T cells, producing both granzyme B and IFNγ. Cyclophosphamide-treated patients demonstrating the most enhanced IFNγ+ tumor-specific T-cell responses exhibited a significant delay in tumor progression [HR = 0.29; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.12-0.69; P = 0.0047), compared with nonresponders and no-treatment controls.Conclusions: Cyclophosphamide-induced Treg depletion is mirrored by a striking boost in antitumor immunity. This study provides the first direct evidence of the benefit of naturally primed T cells in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Our results also support the concept that nonmutated self-antigens may act as useful targets for immunotherapies. Clin Cancer Res; 23(22); 6771-80. ©2017 AACR.