Immunogenic tumors grow progressively even when heavily infiltrated by CD8(+) T cells. We investigated how to rescue CD8(+) T cell function in long-established immunogenic melanomas that contained a high percentage of endogenous PD-1(+) tumor-specific CD8(+) T cells that were dysfunctional. Treatment with αPD-L1 and αCTLA-4 blocking antibodies did not prevent tumors from progressing rapidly. We then tested exogenous tumor-specific antigen delivery into tumors using Salmonella Typhimurium A1-R to increase antigen levels and generate a proinflammatory tumor microenvironment. Antigen-producing A1-R rescued the endogenous tumor-specific CD8(+) T cell response: proliferation was induced in the lymphoid organs and effector function was recovered in the tumor. Treatment with antigen-producing A1-R led to improved mouse survival and resulted in 32% rejection of long-established immunogenic melanomas. Following treatment with antigen-producing A1-R, the majority of tumor-specific CD8(+) T cells still expressed a high level of PD-1 in the tumor. Combining antigen-producing A1-R with αPD-L1 blocking antibody enhanced the expansion of tumor-specific CD8(+) T cells and resulted in 80% tumor rejection. Collectively, these data demonstrate a powerful new therapeutic approach to rescue dysfunctional endogenous tumor-specific CD8(+) T cells and eradicate advanced immunogenic tumors.
Keywords: CD8+ T cell rescue; PD-L1; S. Typhimurium; Tumor rejection; vaccine.