Interferon gamma (IFNg) is a pleiotropic cytokine that can potentially reprogram the tumor microenvironment; however, the antitumor immunomodulatory properties of IFNg still need to be validated due to variable therapeutic outcomes in preclinical and clinical studies. We developed a replication-deficient Semliki Forest virus vector expressing IFNg (SFV/IFNg) and evaluated its immunomodulatory antitumor potential in vitro in a model of 3D spheroids and in vivo in an immunocompetent 4T1 mouse breast cancer model. We demonstrated that SFV-derived, IFN-g-stimulated bone marrow macrophages can be used to acquire the tumoricidal M1 phenotype in 3D nonattached conditions. Coculturing SFV/IFNg-infected 4T1 spheroids with BMDMs inhibited spheroid growth. In the orthotopic 4T1 mouse model, intratumoral administration of SFV/IFNg virus particles alone or in combination with the Pam3CSK4 TLR2/1 ligand led to significant inhibition of tumor growth compared to the administration of the control SFV/Luc virus particles. Analysis of the composition of intratumoral lymphoid cells isolated from tumors after SFV/IFNg treatment revealed increased CD4+ and CD8+ and decreased T-reg (CD4+/CD25+/FoxP3+) cell populations. Furthermore, a significant decrease in the populations of cells bearing myeloid cell markers CD11b, CD38, and CD206 was observed. In conclusion, the SFV/IFNg vector induces a therapeutic antitumor T-cell response and inhibits myeloid cell infiltration in treated tumors.
Keywords: CD38; Pam3CSK4; alphavirus; bone-marrow-derived macrophages; cancer immunotherapy; interferon gamma; spheroids; viral vectors.