Purpose: Cultured tumor fragments from melanoma metastases have been used for years as a source of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) for adoptive cell therapy (ACT). The expansion of tumor-reactive CD8(+) T cells with interleukin-2 (IL2) in these early cultures is critical in generating clinically active TIL infusion products, with a population of activated 4-1BB CD8(+) T cells recently found to constitute the majority of tumor-specific T cells.
Experimental design: We used an agonistic anti-4-1BB antibody added during the initial tumor fragment cultures to provide in situ 4-1BB costimulation.
Results: We found that addition of an agonistic anti-4-1BB antibody could activate 4-1BB signaling within early cultured tumor fragments and accelerated the rate of memory CD8(+) TIL outgrowth that were highly enriched for melanoma antigen specificity. This was associated with NFκB activation and the induction of T-cell survival and memory genes, as well as enhanced IL2 responsiveness, in the CD8(+) T cells in the fragments and emerging from the fragments. Early provision of 4-1BB costimulation also affected the dendritic cells (DC) by activating NFκB in DC and promoting their maturation inside the tumor fragments. Blocking HLA class I prevented the enhanced outgrowth of CD8(+) T cells with anti-4-1BB, suggesting that an ongoing HLA class I-mediated antigen presentation in early tumor fragment cultures plays a role in mediating tumor-specific CD8(+) TIL outgrowth.
Conclusions: Our results highlight a previously unrecognized concept in TIL ACT that the tumor microenvironment can be dynamically regulated in the initial tumor fragment cultures to regulate the types of T cells expanded and their functional characteristics.
©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.