Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumor in adults and is associated with a poor prognosis. Cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen -4 (CTLA-4) blocking antibodies have demonstrated an ability to generate robust antitumor immune responses against a variety of solid tumors. 4-1BB (CD137) is expressed by activated T lymphocytes and served as a co-stimulatory signal, which promotes cytotoxic function. Here, we evaluate a combination immunotherapy regimen involving 4-1BB activation, CTLA-4 blockade, and focal radiation therapy in an immune-competent intracranial GBM model.
Methods: GL261-luciferace cells were stereotactically implanted in the striatum of C57BL/6 mice. Mice were treated with a triple therapy regimen consisted of 4-1BB agonist antibodies, CTLA-4 blocking antibodies, and focal radiation therapy using a small animal radiation research platform and mice were followed for survival. Numbers of brain-infiltrating lymphocytes were analyzed by FACS analysis. CD4 or CD8 depleting antibodies were administered to determine the relative contribution of T helper and cytotoxic T cells in this regimen. To evaluate the ability of this immunotherapy to generate an antigen-specific memory response, long-term survivors were re-challenged with GL261 glioma en B16 melanoma flank tumors.
Results: Mice treated with triple therapy had increased survival compared to mice treated with focal radiation therapy and immunotherapy with 4-1BB activation and CTLA-4 blockade. Animals treated with triple therapy exhibited at least 50% long-term tumor free survival. Treatment with triple therapy resulted in a higher density of CD4+ and CD8+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. Mechanistically, depletion of CD4+ T cells abrogated the antitumor efficacy of triple therapy, while depletion of CD8+ T cells had no effect on the treatment response.
Conclusion: Combination therapy with 4-1BB activation and CTLA-4 blockade in the setting of focal radiation therapy improves survival in an orthotopic mouse model of glioma by a CD4+ T cell dependent mechanism and generates antigen-specific memory.