Programmed death-1 receptor (PD-1) is expressed on T cells following TCR activation. Binding of this receptor to its cognate ligands, programmed death ligand (PDL)-1 and PDL-2, down-regulates signals by the TCR, promoting T-cell anergy and apoptosis, thus leading to immune suppression. Here, we find that using an anti-PD-1 antibody (CT-011) with Treg-cell depletion by low-dose cyclophosphamide (CPM), combined with a tumor vaccine, induces synergistic antigen-specific immune responses and reveals novel activities of each agent in this combination. This strategy led to complete regression of established tumors in a significant percentage of treated animals, with survival prolongation. We show for the first time that combining CT-011 and CPM significantly increases the number of vaccine-induced tumor-infiltrating CD8(+) T cells, with simultaneous decrease in infiltrating Treg cells. Interestingly, we find that CT-011 prolongs Treg-cell inhibition induced by CPM, leading to a sustainable significant synergistic decrease of splenic and tumor-infiltrated Treg cells. Surprisingly, we find that the anti-tumor effect elicited by the combination of CT-011 and CPM is dependent on both CD8(+) and CD4(+) T-cell responses, although the antigen we used is a class I MHC-restricted peptide. Thus, we describe a novel and effective therapeutic approach by combining multiple strategies to target several tumor-mediated immune inhibitory mechanisms.
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