ICOS Costimulation at the Tumor Site in Combination with CTLA-4 Blockade Therapy Elicits Strong Tumor Immunity.
ABSTRACT: Cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) blockade therapy is able to induce long-lasting antitumor responses in a fraction of cancer patients. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement in the quest for new therapeutic combinations. ICOS costimulation has been underscored as a possible target to include with CTLA-4 blocking treatment. Herein, we describe an ICOS agonistic aptamer that potentiates T cell activation and induces stronger antitumor responses when locally injected at the tumor site in combination with anti-CTLA-4 antibody in different tumor models. Furthermore, ICOS agonistic aptamer was engineered as a bi-specific tumor-targeting aptamer to reach any disseminated tumor lesions after systemic injection. Treatment with the bi-specific aptamer in combination with CTLA-4 blockade showed strong antitumor immunity, even in a melanoma tumor model where CTLA-4 treatment alone did not display any significant therapeutic benefit. Thus, this work provides strong support for the development of combinatorial therapies involving anti-CTLA-4 blockade and ICOS agonist tumor-targeting agents.
Project description:The transcription factor T-bet controls the Th1 genetic program in T cells for effective antitumor responses. Anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapy elicits dramatic antitumor responses in mice and in human patients; however, factors that regulate T-bet expression during an antitumor response mediated by anti-CTLA-4 remain to be elucidated. We were the first to report that treatment with anti-CTLA-4 led to an increase in the frequency of T cells expressing inducible costimulator (ICOS). In both treated patients and mice, our data revealed that CD4(+)ICOS(hi) T cells can act as effector T cells, which produce the Th1 cytokine IFN-?. We also showed in a small retrospective analysis that an increased frequency of CD4(+)ICOS(hi) T cells correlated with better clinical outcome and the absence of ICOS or its ligand (ICOSL) in mouse models led to impaired tumor rejection. Here, we show that CD4(+)ICOS(hi) T cells from anti-CTLA-4-treated patients had an increase in signaling via the phospoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway and an increase in expression of T-bet. An ICOS-specific siRNA transfected into human T cells led to diminished PI3K signaling and T-bet expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that ICOS, and specifically ICOS-mediated PI3K signaling, was required for T-bet expression. We conducted studies in ICOS-deficient and ICOS-YF mice, which have a single amino acid change that abrogates PI3K signaling by ICOS. We found that ICOS-mediated PI3K signaling is required for T-bet expression during an antitumor response elicited by anti-CTLA-4 therapy. Our data provide new insight into the regulation of T-bet expression and suggest that ICOS can be targeted to improve Th1 antitumor responses.
Project description:Immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors, such as antibodies targeting PD-1 and CTLA-4, have demonstrated the potential of harnessing the immune system to treat cancer. However, despite encouraging results particularly with respect to survival, only a minority of patients benefit from these therapies. In clinical studies aimed at understanding changes in the immune system following immunotherapy treatment, ICOS (Inducible T cell CO-Stimulator) was shown to be significantly up-regulated on CD4+ T cells and this was associated with clinical activity, indicating that ICOS stimulatory activity may be beneficial in the treatment of solid tumors. In this report, we describe the generation of specific, species cross-reactive, agonist antibodies to ICOS, including the humanized clinical candidate, JTX-2011 (vopratelimab). Preclinical studies suggest that the ICOS stimulating antibodies require Fc receptor cross-linking for optimal agonistic activity. Notably, the ICOS antibodies do not exhibit superagonist properties but rather require T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated upregulation of ICOS for agonist activity. Treatment with the ICOS antibodies results in robust anti-tumor benefit and long-term protection in preclinical syngeneic mouse tumor models. Additional benefit is observed when the ICOS antibodies are administered in combination with anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 therapies. Based on the preclinical data, JTX-2011 is currently being developed in the clinical setting for the treatment of solid tumors.
Project description:The paucity of costimulation at the tumor site compromises the ability of tumor-specific T cells to eliminate the tumor. Here, we show that bi-specific oligonucleotide aptamer conjugates can deliver costimulatory ligands to tumor cells in situ and enhance antitumor immunity. In poorly immunogenic subcutaneously implanted tumor and lung metastasis models, systemic delivery of an agonistic 4-1BB aptamer ligand conjugated to a prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-binding tumor-targeting aptamer led to inhibition of tumor growth, was more effective than, and synergized with, vaccination, and exhibited a superior therapeutic index compared to costimulation with 4-1BB antibodies. Tumor inhibition was dependent on homing to PSMA-expressing tumor cells and 4-1BB costimulation. Aptamer targeted costimulation is a broadly applicable and clinically feasible approach to enhance the costimulatory environment of disseminated tumor lesions. This study suggests that potentiating naturally occurring antitumor immunity via tumor-targeted costimulation could be an effective approach to elicit protective immunity to control tumor progression in cancer patients.
Project description:The dramatic clinical benefit of immune checkpoint blockade for a fraction of cancer patients suggests the potential for further clinical benefit in a broader cancer patient population by combining immune checkpoint inhibitors with active immunotherapies. The anti-tumor efficacy of MVA-BN-HER2 poxvirus-based active immunotherapy alone or in combination with CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade was investigated in a therapeutic CT26-HER-2 lung metastasis mouse model. MVA-BN-HER2 immunotherapy significantly improved the median overall survival compared to untreated controls or CTLA-4 blockade alone (p < 0.001). Robust synergistic efficacy was achieved with the combination therapy (p < 0.01). Improved survival following MVA-BN-HER2 administration was accompanied by increased tumor infiltration by HER-2-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). These tumor-specific CTL had characteristics similar to antiviral CTL, including strong expression of activation markers and co-expression of IFN? and TNF?. Combination with CTLA-4 blockade significantly increased the magnitude of HER-2-specific T cell responses, with a higher proportion co-expressing TNF? and/or IL-2 with IFN?. Furthermore, in mice treated with MVA-BN-HER2 (alone or in combination with CTLA-4 blockade), the inducible T cell co-stimulator (ICOS) protein was expressed predominantly on CD4 and CD8 effector T cells but not on regulatory T cells (T(reg)). In contrast, mice left untreated or treated solely with CTLA-4 blockade harbored elevated ICOS(+) Treg, a phenotype associated with highly suppressive activity. In conclusion, poxvirus-based active immunotherapy induced robust tumor infiltration by highly efficient effector T cells. Combination with CTLA-4 immune checkpoint blockade amplified this response resulting in synergistically improved efficacy. These hypothesis-generating data may help elucidate evidence of enhanced clinical benefit from combining CTLA-4 blockade with poxvirus-based active immunotherapy.
Project description:The inducible T-cell co-stimulator (ICOS) belongs to the B7-CD28 immunoglobulin superfamily, which is currently the subject of intense study due to great successes gained in treatment of different malignancies by disrupting their family members. However, the role of ICOS played in colorectal cancer (CRC) remains poorly understood. A tissue microarray (n = 310) was stained with the ICOS specific antibody and ICOS expression is decreased in patients with either lymphatic or distant metastasis and inversely associated with CEA level and TNM stage of CRC patients. Importantly, high ICOS expression is significantly correlated with overall survival (OS) of CRC patients (n = 230, p < 0.001), and ICOS expression is also proved to be an independent prognostic factor by multivariate analysis. Surgical excised CRC specimens (n = 26) were enzymatically digested to get the tumor-infiltrating leukocytes and ICOS is mainly expressed on CD4(+) T cells and its ligand ICOSL is detected on macrophages and tumor cells. ICOS expression level is associated with increased cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen (CTLA)-4 (p < 0.001) and programmed death (PD-1) (p = 0.005) expression on T cells and more infiltrated CD8(+) T cells (p < 0.001). Interestingly, ICOS(+)CD4(+) cells isolated from tumor tissues have high T-bet and interferon (IFN)? expression, the characteristics of Th1 cells, compared to ICOS(-)CD4(+) cells. In addition, the correlation between the percentage of ICOS(+)CD4(+) T cells in tumor tissue and peripheral blood was detected. Conclusively, expression of ICOS is associated with improved survival in CRC and percentage of ICOS(+)CD4(+) cells acting as Th1 cells in either primary tumor tissue or peripheral blood may be a clinical biomarker for good prognosis of CRC patients.
Project description:Emerging data suggest that locoregional cancer therapeutic approaches with oncolytic viruses can lead to systemic anti-tumour immunity, although the appropriate targets for intratumoral immunomodulation using this strategy are not known. Here we find that intratumoral therapy with Newcastle disease virus (NDV), in addition to the activation of innate immunity, upregulates the expression of T-cell co-stimulatory receptors, with the inducible co-stimulator (ICOS) being most notable. To explore ICOS as a direct target in the tumour, we engineered a recombinant NDV-expressing ICOS ligand (NDV-ICOSL). In the bilateral flank tumour models, intratumoral administration of NDV-ICOSL results in enhanced infiltration with activated T cells in both virus-injected and distant tumours, and leads to effective rejection of both tumours when used in combination with systemic CTLA-4 blockade. These findings highlight that intratumoral immunomodulation with an oncolytic virus expressing a rationally selected ligand can be an effective strategy to drive systemic efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade.
Project description:Costimulation blockade with the B7-CD28 pathway-specific agent belatacept is now used in clinical kidney transplantation, but its efficacy remains imperfect. Numerous alternate costimulatory pathways have been proposed as targets to synergize with belatacept, one of which being the inducible costimulator (ICOS)-ICOS ligand (ICOS-L) pathway. Combined ICOS-ICOS-L and CD28-B7 blockade has been shown to prevent rejection in mice, but has not been studied in primates. We therefore tested a novel ICOS-Ig human Fc-fusion protein in a nonhuman primate (NHP) kidney transplant model alone and in combination with belatacept. ICOS-Ig did not prolong rejection-free survival as a monotherapy or in combination with belatacept. In ICOS-Ig alone treated animals, most graft-infiltrating CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells expressed ICOS, and ICOS(+) T cells were present in peripheral blood to a lesser degree. Adding belatacept reduced the proportion of graft-infiltrating ICOS(+) T cells and virtually eliminated their presence in peripheral blood. Graft-infiltrating T cells in belatacept-resistant rejection were primarily CD8(+) CD28(-) , but importantly, very few CD8(+) CD28(-) T cells expressed ICOS. We conclude that ICOS-Ig, alone or combined with belatacept, does not prolong renal allograft survival in NHPs. This may relate to selective loss of ICOS with CD28 loss.
Project description:Despite the recent successes of using immune modulatory Abs in patients with cancer, autoimmune pathologies resulting from the activation of self-reactive T cells preclude the dose escalations necessary to fully exploit their therapeutic potential. To reduce the observed and expected toxicities associated with immune modulation, here we describe a clinically feasible and broadly applicable approach to limit immune costimulation to the disseminated tumor lesions of the patient, whereby an agonistic 4-1BB oligonucleotide aptamer is targeted to the tumor stroma by conjugation to an aptamer that binds to a broadly expressed stromal product, VEGF. This approach was predicated on the premise that by targeting the costimulatory ligands to products secreted into the tumor stroma, the T cells will be costimulated before their engagement of the MHC-peptide complex on the tumor cell, thereby obviating the need to target the costimulatory ligands to noninternalizing cell surface products expressed on the tumor cells. Underscoring the potency of stroma-targeted costimulation and the broad spectrum of tumors secreting VEGF, in preclinical murine tumor models, systemic administration of the VEGF-targeted 4-1BB aptamer conjugates engendered potent antitumor immunity against multiple unrelated tumors in subcutaneous, postsurgical lung metastasis, methylcholantrene-induced fibrosarcoma, and oncogene-induced autochthonous glioma models, and exhibited a superior therapeutic index compared with nontargeted administration of an agonistic 4-1BB Ab or 4-1BB aptamer.
Project description:Pharmacodynamic biomarkers can play an important role in understanding whether a therapeutic agent has "hit its target" to impact biologic function. A pharmacodynamic biomarker for anti-CTLA-4 therapy remains to be elucidated. We previously reported that anti-CTLA-4 therapy increases the frequency of CD4 T cells expressing the inducible costimulator (ICOS) molecule. To determine whether the frequency of ICOS(+) CD4 T cells could be used as a pharmacodynamic biomarker for anti-CTLA-4 therapy, we carried out flow cytometric studies and statistical analyses on data from 56 individuals, which included 10 healthy donors, 36 patients who received anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody (mAb), and 10 patients who received treatment with a different immunomodulatory agent (gp100 DNA vaccine). After treatment with anti-CTLA-4 mAb (ipilimumab; Bristol-Myers Squibb), we detected a statistically significant increase in the frequency of ICOS(+) CD4 T-cells. After two doses of anti-CTLA-4 therapy, the assay was found to have an estimated specificity of 96% [95% confidence interval (CI), 88-100] and sensitivity of 71% (95% CI, 54-85), with positive expression defined as a frequency that is more than the upper bound of 95% CI among baseline samples from all subjects. Our data suggest that an increased frequency of ICOS(+) CD4 T cells measured by flow cytometry can be used as a reproducible pharmacodynamic biomarker to indicate biologic activity in the setting of anti-CTLA-4 therapy, which should enable appropriate immune monitoring to determine whether patients receiving anti-CTLA-4 monotherapy or combination treatment strategies are having an adequate biologic response.
Project description:Successful tumor eradication by chimeric antigen receptor-expressing (CAR-expressing) T lymphocytes depends on CAR T cell persistence and effector function. We hypothesized that CD4+ and CD8+ T cells may exhibit distinct persistence and effector phenotypes, depending on the identity of specific intracellular signaling domains (ICDs) used to generate the CAR. First, we demonstrate that the ICOS ICD dramatically enhanced the in vivo persistence of CAR-expressing CD4+ T cells that, in turn, increased the persistence of CD8+ T cells expressing either CD28- or 4-1BB-based CARs. These data indicate that persistence of CD8+ T cells was highly dependent on a helper effect provided by the ICD used to redirect CD4+ T cells. Second, we discovered that combining ICOS and 4-1BB ICDs in a third-generation CAR displayed superior antitumor effects and increased persistence in vivo. Interestingly, we found that the membrane-proximal ICD displayed a dominant effect over the distal domain in third-generation CARs. The optimal antitumor and persistence benefits observed in third-generation ICOSBBz CAR T cells required the ICOS ICD to be positioned proximal to the cell membrane and linked to the ICOS transmembrane domain. Thus, CARs with ICOS and 4-1BB ICD demonstrate increased efficacy in solid tumor models over our current 4-1BB-based CAR and are promising therapeutics for clinical testing.