Activation of immune checkpoint pathways and limited T- cell infiltration result in immunological escape of tumors. Although immune checkpoint inhibitors are currently approved for several types of cancers, the response rate is often limited by the lack of tumor specific T-cells within the malignant tissue. Therefore, new combinatorial strategies are needed to enhance the clinical benefit of immune checkpoint inhibitors. We have previously developed PeptiCRAd, an oncolytic vaccine platform capable of directing the immune response toward tumor epitopes. In this study, we evaluated whether the platform could be used to increase the response rate to checkpoint inhibitors in both highly immunogenic and poorly immunogenic tumors, such as melanoma and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). We report here that anti-PD-L1 therapy in combination with PeptiCRAd significantly reduced the growth of melanomas and increased the response rate to checkpoint inhibition. In fact, we registered a higher rate of complete responses among mice treated with the combination. This approach promoted the presence of non-exhausted antigen-specific T-cells within the tumor in comparison to anti-PD-L1 monotherapy. Furthermore, we found that targeting both MHC-I and II restricted tumor epitopes was necessary to decrease the growth of the poorly immunogenic TNBC model 4T1 and that combination with PD-L1 blockade increased the number of responders to checkpoint inhibition. Finally, the described strategy was validated in a translational in vitro model using HLA matched human PBMCs and tumor cell lines. Consistent to our previous results, improved cytotoxicity was observed with combination of PeptiCRAd and anti-PD-L1. These results demonstrate that oncolytic virus based cancer vaccine can significantly improve the response rate to checkpoint blocking antibodies in the context of immunogenic and non-immunogenic tumors.
Keywords: breast cancer; cancer epitopes; cancer vaccines; checkpoint inhibitors; immunotherapy; melanoma; oncolytic vaccines; oncolytic viruses; therapeutic antibodies; therapeutic vaccination.