In previous reports, systemic administration of a stimulatory monoclonal antibody directed against the 4-1BB receptor had no effect on survival or tumor burden in mice inoculated with the poorly immunogenic B16-F10 melanoma. We combined IL-12 gene transfer with 4-1BB costimulation to explore a previously noted cooperative anti-tumor effect against this model tumor. We hypothesize that the innate immune response mediated by IL-12-activated natural killer (NK) cells initiates the activation of the immune system, leading to the priming of T cells, whereas 4-1BB costimulation enhances the function of primed tumor-specific T cells. The effect of the combination therapy on the growth of subcutaneous (s.c.) tumors and pulmonary metastasis was examined. The combination therapy significantly retarded the growth of subcutaneously-inoculated tumors, and 50% of tumor-bearing mice survived with complete tumor regression. In contrast, neither IL-12 gene transfer nor anti-4-1BB antibody administration alone was as effective. Enhanced CTL activity against both B16-F10 tumor cells and TRP-2-pulsed EL4 syngeneic tumor cells was observed in tumor-bearing animals treated with the combination therapy 2 weeks after treatment and, in long-term survivors from this combination therapy, at >120 days. In a pulmonary metastatic model, only the combination therapy generated significant protection against metastasis. In vivo depletion of NK or CD8(+) but not CD4(+) subsets eliminated the protective immunity. Furthermore, NK cell depletion significantly reduced both tumor-specific CTL activity and the number of tumor-specific IFN-gamma-producing cells, suggesting that this synergistic effect requires the participation of both NK and CD8(+) T cells.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.