Modulation of the tumor microenvironment by intratumoral administration of IMO-2125, a novel TLR9 agonist, for cancer immunotherapy

Int J Oncol. 2018 Sep;53(3):1193-1203. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2018.4456. Epub 2018 Jun 27.


The objective of cancer immunotherapy is to prime the host's immune system to recognize and attack malignant tumor cells. IMO‑2125, a Toll‑like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonist, exhibited potent antitumor effects in the murine syngeneic A20 lymphoma and the CT26 colon carcinoma models. IMO‑2125 exhibited superior A20 antitumor activity when injected intratumorally (i.t.) compared with equivalent subcutaneous doses. In mice bearing dual CT26 grafts, the i.t. injection of right flank tumors elicited infiltration of cluster of differentiation (CD)3+ T lymphocytes into tumors, resulting in the regression of injected and uninjected left flank tumors. Depletion of CD8+, but not CD4+, T‑cells abrogated the IMO‑2125‑mediated antitumor response, suggesting that CD8+ lymphocytes are required for the antitumor activity. In mice harboring right flank CT26 and left flank β‑galactosidase (β‑gal)‑expressing CT26.CL25 grafts, the i.t. administration of IMO‑2125 to the CT26 graft resulted in potent and dose‑dependent antitumor activity against the two grafts. Splenic T‑cells isolated from these mice responded to AH1 antigen (present in the two tumors) and β‑gal antigen (present only in CT26.CL25) in an interferon γ enzyme‑linked immunospot assay, suggesting the clonal expansion of T‑cells directed against antigens from the two tumors. Mice with ablated CT26 tumors by previous IMO‑2125 treatment rejected re‑implanted CT26 tumor cells, but not A20 tumor cells, demonstrating that the initial IMO‑2125 treatment created a long‑lived tumor‑specific immune memory of CT26 antigens. A quantitative increase in CD3+ T lymphocytes in injected A20 tumors and an upregulation of selected checkpoint genes, including indoleamine 2,3‑dioxygenase (IDO)‑1, IDO‑2, programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1); programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-L1), carcinoembryonic antigen‑related cell adhesion molecule 1, tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily member 4 (OX40), OX40 ligand, T‑cell immunoglobulin and mucin‑domain‑containing 3 protein, lymphocyte‑activation gene 3, cytotoxic T‑lymphocyte‑associated protein 4, were observed following IMO‑2125 treatment. IMO‑2125 also increased immune checkpoint gene expression in injected and uninjected contralateral CT26 tumors, suggesting that the co‑administration of anti‑CTLA‑4, anti‑PD‑1 or anti‑PD‑L1 therapies with IMO‑2125 may provide additional therapeutic efficacy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Costimulatory and Inhibitory T-Cell Receptors / immunology
  • Costimulatory and Inhibitory T-Cell Receptors / metabolism
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / pharmacology*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / therapeutic use
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides / pharmacology*
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides / therapeutic use
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / agonists*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Microenvironment / drug effects*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology
  • Up-Regulation
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Costimulatory and Inhibitory T-Cell Receptors
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Phosphorothioate Oligonucleotides
  • TLR9 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9