National Cancer Institute
Department of Veterans Affairs
Clinical Research of the University Würzburg
American Cancer Society
ARTICLE ABSTRACTPurpose: PD-1 checkpoint blockade has revolutionized the field of cancer immunotherapy, yet the frequency of responding patients is limited by inadequate T-cell priming secondary to a paucity of activatory dendritic cells (DC). DC signals can be bypassed by CD27 agonists, and we therefore investigated if the effectiveness of anti–PD-1/L1 could be improved by combining with agonist anti-CD27 monoclonal antibodies (mAb).Experimental Design: The efficacy of PD-1/L1 blockade or agonist anti-CD27 mAb was compared with a dual-therapy approach in multiple tumor models. Global transcriptional profiling and flow cytometry analysis were used to delineate mechanisms underpinning the observed synergy.Results: PD-1/PD-L1 blockade and agonist anti-CD27 mAb synergize for increased CD8+ T-cell expansion and effector function, exemplified by enhanced IFNγ, TNFα, granzyme B, and T-bet. Transcriptome analysis of CD8+ T cells revealed that combination therapy triggered a convergent program largely driven by IL2 and Myc. However, division of labor was also apparent such that anti–PD-1/L1 activates a cytotoxicity–gene expression program whereas anti-CD27 preferentially augments proliferation. In tumor models, either dependent on endogenous CD8+ T cells or adoptive transfer of transgenic T cells, anti-CD27 mAb synergized with PD-1/L1 blockade for antitumor immunity. Finally, we show that a clinically relevant anti-human CD27 mAb, varlilumab, similarly synergizes with PD-L1 blockade for protection against lymphoma in human–CD27 transgenic mice.Conclusions: Our findings suggest that suboptimal T-cell invigoration in cancer patients undergoing treatment with PD-1 checkpoint blockers will be improved by dual PD-1 blockade and CD27 agonism and provide mechanistic insight into how these approaches cooperate for CD8+ T-cell activation. Clin Cancer Res; 24(10); 2383–94. ©2018 AACR.