Pd-1 blockade and cd27 stimulation activate distinct transcriptional programs that synergize for CD8þ T-cell–driven antitumor immunity

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Purpose: 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 CD8þ T-cell expansion and effector function, exemplified by enhanced IFNg, TNFa, granzyme B, and T-bet. Transcriptome analysis of CD8þ 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 CD8þ 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 CD8þ T-cell activation.




Buchan, S. L., Fallatah, M., Thirdborough, S. M., Taraban, V. Y., Rogel, A., Thomas, L. J., … Al-Shamkhani, A. (2018). Pd-1 blockade and cd27 stimulation activate distinct transcriptional programs that synergize for CD8þ T-cell–driven antitumor immunity. Clinical Cancer Research, 24(10), 2383–2394. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-3057

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