Section: New Results
Mathematical modeling of cancer immunotherapy and synergy with radiotherapy
Team participant: S. Benzekry Other participants: R. Serre, N. André, J. Ciccolini, D. Barbolosi (SMARTc, Inserm, Marseille, FR), L. Padovani, X. Muracciole (Radiotherapy Unit, La Timone Hospital, Marseille, FR), F. Barlési (Multidisciplinary Oncology and Therapeutic Innovations Unit, AP-HM, Marseille, FR) and C. Meille (Roche Pharmaceutics, Basel, Switzerland)
Combining radiotherapy with immune checkpoint blockade may offer considerable therapeutic impact if the immunosuppressive nature of the tumor microenvironment (TME) can be relieved. In this study, we used mathematical models, which can illustrate the potential synergism between immune checkpoint inhibitors and radiotherapy. A discrete-time pharmacodynamic model of the combination of radiotherapy with inhibitors of the PD1–PDL1 axis and/or the CTLA4 pathway is described. This mathematical framework describes how a growing tumor first elicits and then inhibits an antitumor immune response. This antitumor immune response is described by a primary and a secondary (or memory) response. The primary immune response appears first and is inhibited by the PD1–PDL1 axis, whereas the secondary immune response happens next and is inhibited by the CTLA4 pathway. The effects of irradiation are described by a modified version of the linear-quadratic model. This modeling offers an explanation for the reported biphasic relationship between the size of a tumor and its immunogenicity, as measured by the abscopal effect (an off-target immune response). Furthermore, it explains why discontinuing immunotherapy may result in either tumor recurrence or a durably sustained response. Finally, it describes how synchronizing immunotherapy and radiotherapy can produce synergies. The ability of the model to forecast pharmacodynamic endpoints was validated retrospectively by checking that it could describe data from experimental studies, which investigated the combination of radiotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors. In summary, a model such as this could be further used as a simulation tool to facilitate decision making about optimal scheduling of immunotherapy with radiotherapy and perhaps other types of anticancer therapies.