Impressive clinical response to anti-PD-1 therapy in epithelioid mesothelioma with high clonal PD-L1 expression and EML4-ALK rearrangement.

Lung Cancer 2020 February 14 [Link]

Bronte G, Delmonte A, Burgio MA, Verlicchi A, Puccetti M, Bravaccini S, Cravero P, Tumedei MM, Diano D, Rossi G, Ulivi P, Martinelli G, Crinò L



Treatment options for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) are limited but some studies on immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in MPM have reported antitumor activity. Very little is known about immune-related predictive factors.


Here we report the case of a 45-year-old woman presenting with dyspnea and evidence of pleural effusion. She was diagnosed with malignant epithelioid pleural mesothelioma with brain metastasis and peritoneal carcinosis, refractory to initial standard chemotherapy treatment. Because of high PDL1 expression (100 %), she was treated with the anti-PD1 agent, pembrolizumab.


Chemotherapy with cisplatin and pemetrexed was started, imaging studies showing stable disease after 3 treatment cycles. The patient underwent pleural decortication but rapidly progressed and thus started chemotherapy with carboplatin and gemcitabine. After 2 cycles she experienced seizures caused by a brain metastasis. This secondary lesion was surgically removed and confirmed as a metastasis from mesothelioma. Samples from both the primary tumor and the metastasis were molecularly characterized, the pleural sample proving ALK-positive and the brain sample, ALK-negative. PD-L1 was positive in 10 % of tumor cells in the pleural biopsy and 100 % in the brain lesion. Next generation sequencing analysis was negative for both samples. It was decided to start alectinib. Disease progression (peritoneal carcinosis and liver metastases) was documented after one month followed by complete bowel obstruction and recurrence in the site of the brain surgery. Alectinib was stopped and supportive care begun with parenteral nutrition via nasogastric tube. Pembrolizumab was started and after 15 days the patient’s condition had significantly improved, enabling recanalization and restoration of enteral nutrition. Imaging displayed complete response of the brain metastasis, peritoneal carcinosis, bone lesions and mediastinal nodal metastases. A partial response was documented in the pleural and pulmonary nodules, with stable liver metastases. The patient is still undergoing immunotherapy and has no cancer-related symptoms.


Our findings indicate that the use of immunotherapy in MPM warrants further investigation. Furthermore, the impressive clinical response obtained by our patient suggests that immune checkpoint inhibitors could help in the management of the disease after the failure of other treatments.