Purpose: A variety of cancers, including malignant gliomas, overexpress transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), which helps tumors evade effective immune surveillance through a variety of mechanisms, including inhibition of CD8(+) CTLs and enhancing the generation of regulatory T (T(reg)) cells. We hypothesized that inhibition of TGF-beta would improve the efficacy of vaccines targeting glioma-associated antigen (GAA)-derived CTL epitopes by reversal of immunosuppression.
Experimental design: Mice bearing orthotopic GL261 gliomas were treated systemically with a TGF-beta-neutralizing monoclonal antibody, 1D11, with or without s.c. vaccinations of synthetic peptides for GAA-derived CTL epitopes, GARC-1 (77-85) and EphA2 (671-679), emulsified in incomplete Freund's adjuvant.
Results: Mice receiving the combination regimen exhibited significantly prolonged survival compared with mice receiving either 1D11 alone, GAA vaccines alone, or mock treatments alone. TGF-beta neutralization enhanced the systemic induction of antigen-specific CTLs in glioma-bearing mice. Flow cytometric analyses of brain-infiltrating lymphocytes revealed that 1D11 treatment suppressed phosphorylation of Smad2, increased GAA-reactive/IFN-gamma-producing CD8(+) T cells, and reduced CD4(+)/FoxP3(+) T(reg) cells in the glioma microenvironment. Neutralization of TGF-beta also upregulated plasma levels of interleukin-12, macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha, and IFN-inducible protein-10, suggesting a systemic promotion of type-1 cytokine/chemokine production. Furthermore, 1D11 treatment upregulated plasma interleukin-15 levels and promoted the persistence of GAA-reactive CD8(+) T cells in glioma-bearing mice.
Conclusions: These data suggest that systemic inhibition of TGF-beta by 1D11 can reverse the suppressive immunologic environment of orthotopic tumor-bearing mice both systemically and locally, thereby enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of GAA vaccines.