Local TLR4 stimulation augments in situ vaccination induced via local radiation and anti-CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade through induction of CD8 T-cell independent Th1 polarization

J Immunother Cancer. 2022 Oct;10(10):e005103. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2022-005103.


Background: Radiation therapy (RT) has been demonstrated to generate an in situ vaccination (ISV) effect in murine models and in patients with cancer; however, this has not routinely translated into enhanced clinical response to immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI). We investigated whether the commonly used vaccine adjuvant, monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL) could augment the ISV regimen consisting of combination RT and ICI.

Materials/methods: We used syngeneic murine models of melanoma (B78) and prostate cancer (Myc-CaP). Tumor-bearing mice received either RT (12 Gy, day 1), RT+anti-CTLA-4 (C4, day 3, 6, 9), MPL (20 µg IT injection days 5, 7, 9), RT+C4+MPL, or PBS control. To evaluate the effect of MPL on the irradiated tumor microenvironment, primary tumor with tumor draining lymph nodes were harvested for immune cell infiltration analysis and cytokine profiling, and serum was collected for analysis of antitumor antibody populations.

Results: Combination RT+C4+MPL significantly reduced tumor growth, increased survival and complete response rate compared with RT+C4 in both B78 and Myc-CaP models. MPL favorably reprogrammed the irradiated tumor-immune microenvironment toward M1 macrophage and Th1 TBET+CD4+ T cell polarization. Furthermore, MPL significantly increased intratumoral expression of several Th1-associated and M1-associated proinflammatory cytokines. In co-culture models, MPL-stimulated macrophages directly activated CD8 T cells and polarized CD4 cells toward Th1 phenotype. MPL treatment significantly increased production of Th1-associated, IgG2c antitumor antibodies, which were required for and predictive of antitumor response to RT+C4+MPL, and enabled macrophage-mediated antibody-dependent direct tumor cell killing by MPL-stimulated macrophages. Macrophage-mediated tumor cell killing was dependent on FcγR expression. In metastatic models, RT and MPL generated a systemic antitumor immune response that augmented response to ICIs. This was dependent on macrophages and CD4+ but not CD8+T cells.

Conclusions: We report the potential for MPL to augment the ISV effect of combination RT+C4 through FcγR, macrophage, and TBET+CD4+ Th1 cell dependent mechanisms. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing generation of a CD8+ T cell-independent, Th1 polarized, systemic antitumor immune response with subsequent generation of immunologic memory. These findings support the potential for vaccine adjuvants to enhance the efficacy of in situ tumor vaccine approaches.

Keywords: Adjuvants, Immunologic; Immunity, Humoral; Macrophages; Radioimmunotherapy; Th1-Th2 Balance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cancer Vaccines* / pharmacology
  • Cytokines
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4*
  • Vaccination


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cytokines
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4