Purpose: Immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies (ISmAb) that unleash antitumor immune responses are showing efficacy in cancer clinical trials. Anti-B7-H1 (PD-L1) monoclonal antibodies (mAb) block a critical inhibitory pathway in T cells, whereas anti-CD137 and OX40 mAbs provide T-cell costimulation. A combination of these ISmAbs (anti-CD137 + anti-OX40 + anti-B7-H1) was tested using a transgenic mouse model of multifocal and rapidly progressing hepatocellular carcinoma, in which c-myc drives transformation and cytosolic ovalbumin (OVA) is expressed in tumor cells as a model antigen.
Experimental Design: Flow-cytometry and immunohistochemistry were used to quantify tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) elicited by treatment and assess their activation status and cytolytic potential. Tolerance induction and its prevention/reversal by treatment with the combination of ISmAbs were revealed by in vivo killing assays.
Results: The triple combination of ISmAbs extended survival of mice bearing hepatocellular carcinomas in a CD8-dependent fashion and synergized with adoptive T-cell therapy using activated OVA-specific TCR-transgenic OT-1 and OT-2 lymphocytes. Mice undergoing therapy showed clear increases in tumor infiltration by activated and blastic CD8(+) and CD4(+) T lymphocytes containing perforin/granzyme B and expressing the ISmAb-targeted receptors on their surface. The triple combination of ISmAbs did not result in enhanced OVA-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) activity but other antigens expressed by cell lines derived from such hepatocellular carcinomas were recognized by endogenous TILs. Adoptively transferred OVA-specific OT-1 lymphocytes into tumor-bearing mice were rendered tolerant, unless given the triple mAb therapy.
Conclusion: Extension of survival and dense T-cell infiltrates emphasize the translational potential of combinational immunotherapy strategies for hepatocellular carcinoma.