PD-L1 detection using 89Zr-atezolizumab immuno-PET in renal cell carcinoma tumorgrafts from a patient with favorable nivolumab response

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26 Scopus citations


Background: Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) correlates with a worse prognosis, but whether it also predicts responsiveness to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapy remains unclear. Most studies of PD-L1 are limited by evaluation in primary rather than metastatic sites, and in biopsy samples, which may not be representative. These limitations may be overcome with immuno-positron emission tomography (iPET), an emerging tool allowing the detection of cell surface proteins with radiolabeled antibodies. Here, we report iPET studies of PD-L1 in a preclinical tumorgraft model of clear cell RCC (ccRCC) from a patient who had a favorable response to anti-PD-1 therapy. Case presentation: A 49-year-old man underwent a cytoreductive nephrectomy in 2017 of a right kidney tumor invading into the adrenal gland that was metastatic to the lungs and a rib. Histological analyses revealed a ccRCC of ISUP grade 4 with extensive sarcomatoid features. IMDC risk group was poor. Within two hours of surgery, a tumor sample was implanted orthotopically into NOD/SCID mice. Consistent with an aggressive tumor, a renal mass was detected 18 days post-implantation. Histologically, the tumorgraft showed sarcomatoid differentiation and high levels of PD-L1, similar to the patient's tumor. PD-L1 was evaluated in subsequently transplanted mice using iPET and the results were compared to control mice implanted with a PD-L1-negative tumor. We labeled atezolizumab, an anti-PD-L1 antibody with a mutant Fc, with zirconium-89. iPET revealed significantly higher 89Zr-atezolizumab uptake in index than control tumorgrafts. The patient was treated with high-dose IL2 initially, and subsequently with pazopanib, with rapidly progressive disease, but had a durable response with nivolumab. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first report of non-invasive detection of PD-L1 in renal cancer using molecular imaging. This study supports clinical evaluation of iPET to identify RCC patients with tumors deploying the PD-L1 checkpoint pathway who may be most likely to benefit from PD-1/PD-L1 disrupting drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 3 2019


  • IO
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Immuno-PET
  • Immunotherapy
  • Kidney cancer
  • PD-1
  • PD-L1
  • PDX
  • Patient-derived xenograft
  • Predictive biomarkers
  • Renal cancer
  • SABR
  • SBRT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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