CD38-mediated immunosuppression as a mechanism of tumor cell escape from PD-1/PD-l1 blockade

Limo Chen, Lixia Diao, Yongbin Yang, Xiaohui Yi, B. Leticia Rodriguez, Yanli Li, Pamela A. Villalobos, Tina Cascone, Xi Liu, Lin Tan, Philip L. Lorenzi, Anfei Huang, Qiang Zhao, Di Peng, Jared J. Fradette, David H. Peng, Christin Ungewiss, Jonathon Roybal, Pan Tong, Junna ObaFerdinandos Skoulidis, Weiyi Peng, Brett W. Carter, Carl M. Gay, Youhong Fan, Caleb A. Class, Jingfen Zhu, Jaime Rodriguez-Canales, Masanori Kawakami, Lauren Averett Byers, Scott E. Woodman, Vassiliki A. Papadimitrakopoulou, Ethan Dmitrovsky, Jing Wang, Stephen E. Ullrich, Ignacio I. Wistuba, John V. Heymach, F. Xiao Feng Qin, Don L. Gibbons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

254 Citations (Scopus)


Although treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors provides promising benefit for patients with cancer, optimal use is encumbered by high resistance rates and requires a thorough understanding of resistance mechanisms. We observed that tumors treated with PD-1/PD-L1 blocking antibodies develop resistance through the upregulation of CD38, which is induced by all-trans retinoic acid and IFNβ in the tumor microenvironment. In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrate that CD38 inhibits CD8+ T-cell function via adenosine receptor signaling and that CD38 or adenosine receptor blockade are effective strategies to overcome the resistance. Large data sets of human tumors reveal expression of CD38 in a subset of tumors with high levels of basal or treatment-induced T-cell infiltration, where immune checkpoint therapies are thought to be most effective. These findings provide a novel mechanism of acquired resistance to immune checkpoint therapy and an opportunity to expand their efficacy in cancer treatment. SIGNIFICANCE: CD38 is a major mechanism of acquired resistance to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade, causing CD8+ T-cell suppression. Coinhibition of CD38 and PD-L1 improves antitumor immune response. Biomarker assessment in patient cohorts suggests that a combination strategy is applicable to a large percentage of patients in whom PD-1/PD-L1 blockade is currently indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1156-1175
Number of pages20
JournalCancer Discovery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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