Product(s) used in this publication: Custom Peptide Synthesis
The dramatic clinical benefit of immune checkpoint blockade for a fraction of cancer patients suggests the potential for further clinical benefit in a broader cancer patient population by combining immune checkpoint inhibitors with active immunotherapies. The anti-tumor efficacy of MVA-BN-HER2 poxvirus-based active immunotherapy alone or in combination with CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade was investigated in a therapeutic CT26-HER-2 lung metastasis mouse model. MVA-BN-HER2 immunotherapy significantly improved the median overall survival compared to untreated controls or CTLA-4 blockade alone (p < 0.001). Robust synergistic efficacy was achieved with the combination therapy (p < 0.01). Improved survival following MVA-BN-HER2 administration was accompanied by increased tumor infiltration by HER-2-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). These tumor-specific CTL had characteristics similar to antiviral CTL, including strong expression of activation markers and co-expression of IFNγ and TNFα. Combination with CTLA-4 blockade significantly increased the magnitude of HER-2-specific T cell responses, with a higher proportion co-expressing TNFα and/or IL-2 with IFNγ. Furthermore, in mice treated with MVA-BN-HER2 (alone or in combination with CTLA-4 blockade), the inducible T cell co-stimulator (ICOS) protein was expressed predominantly on CD4 and CD8 effector T cells but not on regulatory T cells (Treg). In contrast, mice left untreated or treated solely with CTLA-4 blockade harbored elevated ICOS(+) Treg, a phenotype associated with highly suppressive activity. In conclusion, poxvirus-based active immunotherapy induced robust tumor infiltration by highly efficient effector T cells. Combination with CTLA-4 immune checkpoint blockade amplified this response resulting in synergistically improved efficacy. These hypothesis-generating data may help elucidate evidence of enhanced clinical benefit from combining CTLA-4 blockade with poxvirus-based active immunotherapy.
Active immunotherapy; Anti-CTLA-4; Cancer; Immune checkpoint blockade; Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA); Poxvirus