Triple-negative breast cancer is the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer and is difficult to treat. Breast cancer is considered to be poorly immunogenic and hence is less responsive to immunotherapies. We tested whether the oncolytic poxvirus CF33-hNIS-ΔF14.5 could modulate tumor immune microenvironment and make the tumors responsive to the immune checkpoint inhibitor anti-PD-L1. We found that virus infection causes the upregulation of PD-L1 levels on triple-negative breast cancer cells in vitro as well as in vivo in mice. In a mouse model of orthotopic triple-negative breast cancer, the virus was found to increase tumor infiltration by CD8+ T cells. Likewise, in mice treated with CF33-hNIS-ΔF14.5 high levels of proinflammatory cytokines IFNγ and IL-6 were found in the tumors but not in the serum. The levels of immune modulation were even higher in mice that were treated with a combination of the virus and anti-PD-L1 antibody. While CF33-hNIS-ΔF14.5 and anti-PD-L1 antibody failed to exert significant anti-tumor effect as a single agent, a combination of the two agents resulted in significant anti-tumor effect with 50% mice experiencing complete tumor regression when both agents were injected intra-tumorally. Furthermore, the 'cured' mice did not develop tumor after re-challenge with the same cancer cells suggesting that they developed immunity against those cancer cells. Taken together, our study shows that CF33-hNIS-ΔF14.5 favorably modulates tumor immune microenvironment in triple-negative breast cancer model making them responsive to the immune checkpoint inhibitor anti-PD-L1, and hence warrants further studies to determine the clinical applicability of this combination therapy.
Keywords: ICI; Oncolytic virus; TNBC; immunotherapy.
© 2020 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.