It is known that tumor-reactive T cells are initially activated in the draining lymph node, but it is not well known whether and how tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are reactivated in the tumor microenvironment (TME). We hypothesize that defective T cell receptor (TCR) signaling and cosignals in the TME limit T cell reactivation. To address this, we designed a mesenchymal stromal cell-based delivery of local membrane-bound anti-CD3 and/or cosignals to explore their contribution to reactivate T cells inside the TME. Combined anti-CD3 and CD40L rather than CD80 led to superior antitumor efficacy compared with either alone. Mechanistically, TCR activation of preexisting CD8+ T cells synergized with CD40L activation of DCs inside the TME for optimum tumor control. Exogenous TCR signals could better reactivate TILs that then exited to attack distal tumors. This study supplies further evidence that TCR signaling for T cell reactivation in the TME is defective but can be rescued by proper exogenous signals.
Keywords: Adaptive immunity; Cancer immunotherapy; Immunology; Oncology.