This proof of concept trial aims to assess whether the combination of IRE with Nivolumab is safe and effective to treat metastatic pancreatic cancer, based on the available preliminary evidence that IRE is able to cause a systemic anti-tumor immune response (i.e. abscopal effect), which may enhance the effect of subsequent Nivolumab treatment. In addition, the trial aims to clarify the systemic effects of IRE over time and thereby to provide more insight in the mechanism of work of the technique.
The prognosis of patients newly diagnosed with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is extremely poor with a 5-year overall survival rate of less than 5%. To improve this dismal outcome, new treatment approaches are urgently needed. So far, immune-checkpoint therapy was not successful in patients with PDAC. Given the poor response to conventional chemotherapy, there is an imperative need to make PDACs amenable to immune-checkpoint therapy. Irreversible electroporation (IRE) is a relatively novel and safe ablation technique that destroys tumors by using apoptosis-inducing electrical currents inducing local and systemic pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and enhances the presence of cytotoxic CD8+ T-cells, while the apoptotic cell material preserves neo-antigen properties detectable by dendritic cells. This effect might be further enhanced by immune-checkpoint therapy.
The rationale of our study is to convert immunologically cold PDACs into hot PDACs by triggering an enhanced local and systemic immune response. We hypothesize that among patients with metastatic PDAC, the IRE of one liver metastasis followed by the administration of an immune-checkpoint inhibitor leads to a measurable radiological response in a selected non-treated liver metastasis. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the immune response is both local in the form of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILS) and an immunologically activated tumor microenvironment in the IRE-treated metastasis, as well as systemic as evidenced by an abscopal response in the IRE-untreated metastatic and primary site.
The objective of the trial is to examine whether for patients with metastatic PDAC the combination of IRE of one liver metastasis followed by the administration of five doses of nivolumab leads to a measurable radiological response in a selected non-treated liver metastasis.
To demonstrate that the trial treatment leads to a measurable immune response, multiple translational research projects will assess the effect of IRE and nivolumab on the development of the local and peripheral tumor immune response over time.