Costimulatory receptors such as glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor-related protein (GITR) play key roles in regulating the effector functions of T cells. In human clinical trials, however, GITR agonist antibodies have shown limited therapeutic effect, which may be due to suboptimal receptor clustering-mediated signaling. To overcome this potential limitation, a rational protein engineering approach is needed to optimize GITR agonist-based immunotherapies. Here we show a bispecific molecule consisting of an anti-PD-1 antibody fused with a multimeric GITR ligand (GITR-L) that induces PD-1-dependent and FcγR-independent GITR clustering, resulting in enhanced activation, proliferation and memory differentiation of primed antigen-specific GITR+PD-1+ T cells. The anti-PD-1-GITR-L bispecific is a PD-1-directed GITR-L construct that demonstrated dose-dependent, immunologically driven tumor growth inhibition in syngeneic, genetically engineered and xenograft humanized mouse tumor models, with a dose-dependent correlation between target saturation and Ki67 and TIGIT upregulation on memory T cells. Anti-PD-1-GITR-L thus represents a bispecific approach to directing GITR agonism for cancer immunotherapy.
© 2022. The Author(s).