GITR Ligand Fusion Protein Agonist Enhances the Tumor Antigen-Specific CD8 T-Cell Response and Leads to Long-Lasting Memory

Durham et al., J Immunother Cancer (2017) - PMID: 28245833

Product(s) used in this publication:  MHC Multimers



The expansion of antigen-specific CD8 T cells is important in generating an effective and long-lasting immune response to tumors and viruses. Glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor family-related receptor (GITR) is a co-stimulatory receptor that binds the GITR ligand (GITRL). Agonism of GITR can produce important signals that drive expansion of effector T cell populations.



We explored two separate murine tumor models, CT26 and TC-1, for responsiveness to GITR Ligand Fusion Protein(GITRL-FP) monotherapy. In TC-1, GITRL-FP was also combined with concurrent administration of an E7-SLP vaccine. We evaluated tumor growth inhibition by tumor volume measurements as well as changes in CD8 T cell populations and function including cytokine production using flow cytometry. Additionally, we interrogated how these therapies resulted in tumor antigen-specific responses using MHC-I dextramer staining and antigen-specific restimulations.



In this study, we demonstrate that a GITR ligand fusion protein (GITRL-FP) is an effective modulator of antigen-specific CD8 T cells. In a CT26 mouse tumor model, GITRL-FP promoted expansion of antigen-specific T cells, depletion of regulatory T cells (Tregs), and generation of long-lasting CD8 T cell memory. This memory expansion was dependent on the dose of GITRL-FP and resulted in complete tumor clearance and protection from tumor rechallenge. In contrast, in TC-1 tumor-bearing mice, GITRL-FP monotherapy could not prime an antigen-specific CD8 T cell response and was unable to deplete Tregs. However, when combined with a vaccine targeting E7, treatment with GITRL-FP resulted in an augmentation of the vaccine-induced antigen-specific CD8 T cells, the depletion of Tregs, and a potent antitumor immune response. In both model systems, GITR levels on antigen-specific CD8 T cells were higher than on all other CD8 T cells, and GITRL-FP interacted directly with primed antigen-specific CD8 T cells.



When taken together, our results demonstrate that the delivery of GITRL-FP as a therapeutic can promote anti-tumor responses in the presence of tumor-specific CD8 T cells. These findings support further study into combination partners for GITRL-FP that may augment CD8 T-cell priming as well as provide hypotheses that can be tested in human clinical trials exploring GITR agonists including GITRL-FP.

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