Background: One of the significant tumor immune escape mechanisms and substantial barrier for successful immunotherapy is tumor-mediated inhibition of immune response through cell-to-cell or receptor/ligand interactions. Programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) interaction with its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, is one of the important strategies that many tumors employ to escape immune surveillance. Upon PD-Ls binding to PD-1, T cell receptor (TCR) signaling is dampened, causing inhibition of proliferation, decreased cytokine production, anergy and/or apoptosis. Thus PD-Ls expression by tumor cells serves as a protective mechanism, leading to suppression of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in the tumor microenvironment. Lm-LLO immunotherapies have been shown to be therapeutically effective due to their ability to induce potent antigen-specific immune responses. However, it has been demonstrated that infection with Lm leads to up-regulation of PD-L1 on mouse immune cells that can inhibit effector T cells through PD-1/PD-L1 pathway.
Methods: Therapeutic and immune efficacy of Listeria-based vaccine (Lm-LLO-E7) in combination with anti-PD-1 antibody was tested in E7 antigen expressing TC-1 mouse tumor model. Tumor growth, survival, as well as peripheral and tumor-infiltrating immune cell profiles after immunotherapy were assessed.
Results: Here we demonstrate that the combination of an Lm-LLO immunotherapy with anti-PD-1 antibody that blocks PD-1/PD-L1 interaction, significantly improves immune and therapeutic efficacy of treatment in TC-1 mouse tumor model. Importantly, we show that in addition to significant reduction of regulatory T cells (Treg) and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) in both spleen and tumor microenvironment that are mediated solely by the Lm-LLO immunotherapy, the addition of anti-PD-1 antibody to the treatment results in significant increase of antigen-specific immune responses in periphery and CD8 T cell infiltration into the tumor. As a result, this combinational treatment leads to significant inhibition of tumor growth and prolonged survival/complete regression of tumors in treated animals. We also demonstrate that in vitro infection with Lm results in significant upregulation of surface PD-L1 expression on human monocyte-derived dendritic cells suggesting the translational capacity of this finding.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that combination of Lm-LLO-based vaccine with blocking of PD-1/PD-L1 interaction is a feasible approach with clinical translation potential that can lead to overall enhancement of the efficacy of anti-tumor immunotherapy.
Keywords: Combinational immunotherapy; Immunotherapy; Listeria-based vaccine; PD-1.