Modulation of the immune system for the treatment of primary and metastatic tumors has been a goal of cancer research for many years. The E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl-b has been established as an intracellular checkpoint that limits T cell activation, critically contributing to the maintenance of self-tolerance. Furthermore, it has been shown that Cblb deficiency enhances T cell effector functions towards tumors. Blockade of the immune checkpoints CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1 has recently emerged as a promising strategy in the development of effective cancer immune therapies. Therefore, we explored the concept of targeting different checkpoints concomitantly. Interestingly, we observed that CTLA-4 but not PD-L1 based immunotherapy selectively enhanced the anti-tumor phenotype of Cblb-deficient mice. In agreement with the in vivo results, in vitro experiments showed that Cblb-/- T cells were less susceptible to PD-L1-mediated suppression of T cell proliferation and IFNγ secretion. Taken together, our findings reveal a so far unappreciated function of Cbl-b in the regulation of PD-1 signaling in murine T cells.
Keywords: Cbl-b; T cells; cancer immunotherapy; immune checkpoints.