Standard-of-care cisplatin and radiation therapy (CRT) provides significant tumor control of human papillomavirus (HPV)-mediated head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs); this effectiveness depends on CRT-mediated activation of the patient's own immune system. However, despite good survival, patients suffer significant morbidity necessitating on-going studies to define novel therapies that alleviate this burden. Given the role of the immune system in tumor clearance, immune modulation may further potentiate the CRT-activated response while potentially decreasing morbidity. CD137, an inducible cell surface receptor found on activated T cells, is involved in differentiation and survival signaling in T cells upon binding of its natural partner (CD137L). A number of studies have shown the effectiveness of targeting this immune-stimulatory pathway in regards to tumor clearance. Here we test its role in HPV+ HNSCC tumor clearance using a previously characterized mouse model. We show that amplification of this stimulatory pathway synergizes with CRT for enhanced tumor clearance. Interestingly, tumor clearance is further potentiated by local tumor cell expression of CD137L.
Keywords: CD137; HPV; immune; mouse; squamous.