To improve the anti-tumor efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors, numerous combination therapies are under clinical evaluation, including with IL-12 gene therapy. The current study evaluated the simultaneous delivery of the cytokine and checkpoint-inhibiting antibodies by intratumoral DNA electroporation in mice. In the MC38 tumor model, combined administration of plasmids encoding IL-12 and an anti-PD-1 antibody induced significant anti-tumor responses, yet similar to the monotherapies. When treatment was expanded with a DNA-based anti-CTLA-4 antibody, this triple combination significantly delayed tumor growth compared to IL-12 alone and the combination of anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 antibodies. Despite low drug plasma concentrations, the triple combination enabled significant abscopal effects in contralateral tumors, which was not the case for the other treatments. The DNA-based immunotherapies increased T cell infiltration in electroporated tumors, especially of CD8+ T cells, and upregulated the expression of CD8+ effector markers. No general immune activation was detected in spleens following either intratumoral treatment. In B16F10 tumors, evaluation of the triple combination was hampered by a high sensitivity to control plasmids. In conclusion, intratumoral gene electrotransfer allowed effective combined delivery of multiple immunotherapeutics. This approach induced responses in treated and contralateral tumors, while limiting systemic drug exposure and potentially detrimental systemic immunological effects.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02493361 NCT03132675 NCT03567720 NCT04526730.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.