ONC201 is a first-in-class, orally active antitumor agent that upregulates cytotoxic TRAIL pathway signaling in cancer cells. ONC201 has demonstrated safety and preliminary efficacy in a first-in-human trial in which patients were dosed every 3 weeks. We hypothesized that dose intensification of ONC201 may impact antitumor efficacy. We discovered that ONC201 exerts dose- and schedule-dependent effects on tumor progression and cell death signaling in vivo. With dose intensification, we note a potent anti-metastasis effect and inhibition of cancer cell migration and invasion. Our preclinical results prompted a change in ONC201 dosing in all open clinical trials. We observed accumulation of activated NK+ and CD3+ cells within ONC201-treated tumors and that NK cell depletion inhibits ONC201 efficacy in vivo, including against TRAIL/ONC201-resistant Bax–/– tumors. Immunocompetent NCR1-GFP mice, in which NK cells express GFP, demonstrated GFP+ NK cell infiltration of syngeneic MC38 colorectal tumors. Activation of primary human NK cells and increased degranulation occurred in response to ONC201. Coculture experiments identified a role for TRAIL in human NK-mediated antitumor cytotoxicity. Preclinical results indicate the potential utility for ONC201 plus anti–PD-1 therapy. We observed an increase in activated TRAIL-secreting NK cells in the peripheral blood of patients after ONC201 treatment. The results offer what we believe to be a unique pathway of immune stimulation for cancer therapy.
Jessica Wagner, C. Leah Kline, Lanlan Zhou, Kerry S. Campbell, Alexander W. MacFarlane, Anthony J. Olszanski, Kathy Q. Cai, Harvey H. Hensley, Eric A. Ross, Marie D. Ralff, Andrew Zloza, Charles B. Chesson, Jenna H. Newman, Howard Kaufman, Joseph Bertino, Mark Stein, Wafik S. El-Deiry