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In small cell lung cancer patients treated with RRx-001, a downregulator of CD47, decreased expression of PD-L1 on circulating tumor cells significantly correlates with clinical benefit



Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is the most aggressive lung tumor, characterized by a rapid doubling time and the development of widespread metastases, for which immune checkpoint inhibitors have been approved to overcome T cell anergy. In light of its dismal prognosis, and lack of curative options, new therapies for extensive-disease SCLC are desperately needed.


RRx-001 is a small molecule Myc inhibitor and down-regulates CD47 expression on tumor cells. We evaluated the programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) status of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) pre and post RRx-001 treatment in a phase 2 clinical trial, called QUADRUPLE THREAT, where patients with previously treated SCLC received RRx-001 in combination with a platinum doublet. The trial was registered with, number NCT02489903. Fourteen patients with SCLC were analyzed to investigate the association between clinical outcome and PD-L1 expression on CTCs pre and post RRx-001. The correlation between the binary clinical outcome (clinical benefit vs. progressive disease) and the change of PD-L1 expression on CTCs after RRx-001 was analyzed using a logistic regression adjusting for baseline PD-L1 expression.


The logistic model McFadden goodness of fit score was 0.477. The logistic model analyzing the association between decreased PD-L1 expression on CTCs after RRx-001 and response to reintroduced platinum doublet had an approximate 92.8% accuracy in its prediction of clinical benefit. The estimated receiver operating characteristic (ROC) displayed a ROC area under the curve (AUC) of 0.93 (95% confidence interval, 0.78-0.99).


These results suggest that PD-L1 expression on CTCs decreased after RRx-001 was significantly correlated with response to reintroduced platinum-based doublet therapy. Monitoring PD-L1 expression on CTCs during RRx-001 treatment may serve as a biomarker to predict response to RRx-001-based cancer therapy.

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