NHS-IL2 combined with radiotherapy: preclinical rationale and phase Ib trial results in metastatic non-small cell lung cancer following first-line chemotherapy

Michel M. van den Heuvel*, Marcel Verheij, Rogier Boshuizen, Jose Belderbos, Anne-Marie C. Dingemans, Dirk De Ruysscher, Julien Laurent, Robert Tighe, John Haanen, Sonia Quaratino

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: NHS-IL2 (selectikine, EMD 521873, MSB0010445) consists of human NHS76 (antibody specific for necrotic DNA) fused to genetically modified human interleukin 2 (IL-2) and selectively activates the high-affinity IL-2 receptor. Based on an evolving investigational concept to prime the tumor microenvironment with ionizing radiation prior to initiating immunotherapy, 2 related studies were conducted and are reported here. The first, a preclinical study, tests the systemic effect of the immunocytokine NHS-IL2 and radiotherapy in a lung carcinoma animal model; the second, a phase Ib trial in patients with metastatic non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), was designed to determine the safety and tolerability of NHS-IL2 in combination with radiotherapy directly following first-line palliative chemotherapy. Methods: Tumor-bearing C57Bl/6 mice were treated with NHS-IL2 alone (5 mg/kg; days 7-9), fractionated radiotherapy (3.6 Gy; days 0-4) plus cisplatin (4 mg/kg; day 0), or the triple combination. Metastatic NSCLC patients who achieved disease control with first-line palliative chemotherapy were enrolled in the phase Ib trial. Patients received local irradiation (5x 4 Gy) of a single pulmonary nodule. Dose-escalated NHS-IL2 was administered as 1-h intravenous infusion on 3 consecutive days every 3 weeks. Results: NHS-IL2 plus radiotherapy induced immune response activation and complete tumor growth regressions in 80%-100% of mice. In patients with metastatic NSCLC treated with NHS-IL2 (3, 3, and 7 patients in the 0.15-mg/kg, 0.30-mg/kg, and 0.45-mg/kg cohorts, respectively), maximum tolerated dose was not reached. Most frequently reported adverse events were fatigue, anorexia, and rash. Transient increases in leukocyte subsets were observed. In 3 patients, thyroid gland dysfunction occurred. No objective responses were reported; long-term survival was observed in 2 patients, including 1 patient with long-term tumor control. Conclusions: Combining NHS-IL2 with radiotherapy achieved synergistic antitumor activity in preclinical studies, supporting the use in lung cancer patients. This combination was well tolerated and 2 of 13 patients achieved long-term survival.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2015


  • Lung cancer
  • NHS-IL2
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Phase Ib

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