First-in-human Intravesical Delivery of Pembrolizumab Identifies Immune Activation in Bladder Cancer Unresponsive to Bacillus Calmette-Guérin

Khyati Meghani, Lauren Folgosa Cooley, Bonnie Choy, Masha Kocherginsky, Suchitra Swaminathan, Sabah S. Munir, Robert S. Svatek, Timothy Kuzel, Joshua J. Meeks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Intravenous immune checkpoint inhibition is an effective anticancer strategy for bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)-unresponsive non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) but may be associated with greater systemic toxicity compared with localized therapies. Objective: We assessed the safety and antitumor activity of intravesical pembrolizumab combined with BCG. Design, setting, and participants: A 3 + 3 phase 1 trial of pembrolizumab + BCG was conducted in patients with BCG-unresponsive NMIBC (NCT02808143). Intervention: Pembrolizumab was given intravesically (1–5 mg/kg for 2 h) beginning 2 weeks prior to BCG induction until recurrence. Urine profiling during treatment and spatial transcriptomic profiling of pre- and post-treatment tumors were conducted to identify biomarkers that correlated with response. Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Safety and tolerability of immune checkpoint inhibition were assessed, and Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was performed. Results and limitations: Nine patients completed therapy. Median follow-up was 35 months for five patients still alive at the end of the trial. The trial was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grade 1–2 urinary symptoms were common. The maximum tolerated dose was not reached; however, one dose-limiting toxicity was reported (grade 2 diarrhea) in the only patient who reached 52 weeks without recurrence. One death occurred from myasthenia gravis that was deemed potentially related to treatment. The 6-mo and 1-yr recurrence-free rates were 67% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 42–100%) and 22% (95% CI: 6.5–75%), respectively. Pembrolizumab was detected in the urine and not in blood. CD4+ T cells were significantly increased in the urine after treatment, and a transcriptomic analysis identified decreased expression of T-cell exhaustion markers in late recurrences. Conclusions: We demonstrate that intravesical pembrolizumab is safe, feasible, and capable of eliciting strong immune responses in a clinical setting and should be investigated further. Patient summary: Direct application of pembrolizumab to the bladder is a promising alternative for non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer unresponsive to Bacillus Calmette-Guérin and should be investigated further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-610
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean urology
Volume82
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Bacillus Calmette-Guérin
  • Bladder cancer
  • Clinical trial
  • Digital spatial profiling
  • Intravesical pembrolizumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology

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