Radiotherapy and CD40 Activation Separately Augment Immunity to Checkpoint Blockade in Cancer

Cancer Res. 2018 Aug 1;78(15):4282-4291. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-3821. Epub 2018 May 29.


Immunotherapy in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) remains a difficult clinical problem despite success in other disease types with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. Mechanisms driving immunosuppression and poor T-cell infiltration in PDA are incompletely understood. Here, we use genetically engineered mouse models of PDA that recapitulate hallmarks of human disease to demonstrate that CD40 pathway activation is required for clinical response to radiotherapy and ICB with αCTLA-4 and αPD-1. The combination of an agonist αCD40 antibody, radiotherapy, and dual ICB eradicated irradiated and unirradiated (i.e., abscopal) tumors, generating long-term immunity. Response required T cells and also short-lived myeloid cells and was dependent on the long noncoding RNA myeloid regulator Morrbid Using unbiased random forest machine learning, we built unique, contextual signatures for each therapeutic component, revealing that (i) radiotherapy triggers an early proinflammatory stimulus, ablating existing intratumoral T cells and upregulating MHC class I and CD86 on antigen-presenting cells, (ii) αCD40 causes a systemic and intratumoral reorganization of the myeloid compartment, and (iii) ICB increases intratumoral T-cell infiltration and improves the CD8 T-cell:regulatory T-cell ratio. Thus, αCD40 and radiotherapy nonredundantly augment antitumor immunity in PDA, which is otherwise refractory to ICB, providing a clear rationale for clinical evaluation.Significance: Radiotherapy and αCD40 disrupt key links between innate and adaptive immunity, ameliorating resistance to immune checkpoint blockade in pancreatic cancer via multiple cellular mechanisms. Cancer Res; 78(15); 4282-91. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / immunology
  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • CD40 Antigens / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / therapy
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • CD40 Antigens

Supplementary concepts

  • Pancreatic Carcinoma