Background: The coinhibitory receptor Programmed Death-1 (PD-1) inhibits effector functions of activated T cells and prevents autoimmunity, however, cancer hijack this pathway to escape from immune attack. The costimulatory receptor glucocorticoid-induced TNFR related protein (GITR) is up-regulated on activated T cells and increases their proliferation, activation and cytokine production. We hypothesize that concomitant PD-1 blockade and GITR triggering would synergistically improve the effector functions of tumor-infiltrating T cells and increase the antitumor immunity. In present study, we evaluated the antitumor effects and mechanisms of combined PD-1 blockade and GITR triggering in a clinically highly relevant murine ID8 ovarian cancer model.
Methods: Mice with 7 days-established peritoneal ID8 ovarian cancer were treated intraperitoneally (i.p.) with either control, anti-PD-1, anti-GITR or anti-PD-1/GITR monoclonal antibody (mAb) and their survival was evaluated; the phenotype and function of tumor-associated immune cells in peritoneal cavity of treated mice was analyzed by flow cytometry, and systemic antigen-specific immune response was evaluated by ELISA and cytotoxicity assay.
Results: Combined anti-PD-1/GITR mAb treatment remarkably inhibited peritoneal ID8 tumor growth with 20% of mice tumor free 90 days after tumor challenge while treatment with either anti-PD-1 or anti-GITR mAb alone exhibited little antitumor effect. The durable antitumor effect was associated with a memory immune response and conferred by CD4⁺ cells and CD8⁺ T cells. The treatment of anti-PD-1/GITR mAb increased the frequencies of interferon-γ-producing effector T cells and decreased immunosuppressive regulatory T cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells, shifting an immunosuppressive tumor milieu to an immunostimulatory state in peritoneal cavity. In addition, combined treatment of anti-PD-1/GITR mAb mounted an antigen-specific immune response as evidenced by antigen-specific IFN-γ production and cytolytic activity of spleen cells from treated mice. More importantly, combined treatment of anti-PD-1/GITR mAb and chemotherapeutic drugs (cisplatin or paclitaxel) further increased the antitumor efficacy with 80% of mice obtaining tumor-free long-term survival in murine ID8 ovarian cancer and 4 T1 breast cancer models.
Conclusions: Combined anti-PD-1/GITR mAb treatment induces a potent antitumor immunity, which can be further promoted by chemotherapeutic drugs. A combined strategy of anti-PD-1/GITR mAb plus cisplatin or paclitaxel should be considered translation into clinic.