Combination therapy with T cell engager and PD-L1 blockade enhances the antitumor potency of T cells as predicted by a QSP model

Huilin Ma, Hanwen Wang, Richard J. Sové, Jun Wang, Craig Giragossian, Aleksander S. Popel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background T cells have been recognized as core effectors for cancer immunotherapy. How to restore the anti-tumor ability of suppressed T cells or improve the lethality of cytotoxic T cells has become the main focus in immunotherapy. Bispecific antibodies, especially bispecific T cell engagers (TCEs), have shown their unique ability to enhance the patient's immune response to tumors by stimulating T cell activation and cytokine production in an MHC-independent manner. Antibodies targeting the checkpoint inhibitory molecules such as programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) and cytotoxic lymphocyte activated antigen 4 are able to restore the cytotoxic effect of immune suppressed T cells and have also shown durable responses in patients with malignancies. However, both types have their own limitations in treating certain cancers. Preclinical and clinical results have emphasized the potential of combining these two antibodies to improve tumor response and patients' survival. However, the selection and evaluation of combination partners clinically is a costly endeavor. In addition, despite advances made in immunotherapy, there are subsets of patients who are non-responders, and reliable biomarkers for different immunotherapies are urgently needed to improve the ability to prospectively predict patients' response and improve clinical study design. Therefore, mathematical and computational models are essential to optimize patient benefit, and guide combination approaches with lower cost and in a faster manner. Method In this study, we continued to extend the quantitative systems pharmacology (QSP) model we developed for a bispecific TCE to explore efficacy of combination therapy with an anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody in patients with colorectal cancer. Results Patient-specific response to TCE monotherapy, anti-PD-L1 monotherapy and the combination therapy were predicted using this model according to each patient's individual characteristics. Conclusions Individual biomarkers for TCE monotherapy, anti-PD-L1 monotherapy and their combination have been determined based on the QSP model. Best treatment options for specific patients could be suggested based on their own characteristics to improve clinical trial efficiency. The model can be further used to assess plausible combination strategies for different TCEs and immune checkpoint inhibitors in different types of cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001141
JournalJournal for immunotherapy of cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 27 2020


  • B7-H1 antigen
  • CD8-positive T-Lymphocytes
  • biomarkers
  • computational biology
  • immunotherapy
  • tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pharmacology
  • Immunology


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