Adoptive cellular immunotherapy has promise as an approach to eradicate established tumors. However, a significant hurdle in the success of cellular immunotherapy involves recently identified mechanisms of immune suppression on cytotoxic T-cells at the effector phase.
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is one of the most important of these immunosuppressive factors because it affects both T-cell and macrophage functions. We thus hypothesized that systemic blockade of TGF-β signaling combined with adoptive T-cell transfer would enhance the effectiveness of the therapy.
Flank tumors were generated in mice using the OVA-albumin (OA) expressing thymoma cell line, EG7. Splenocytes from transgenic OT-1 mice (whose CD8 T-cells recognize an immunodominant peptide in OA) were activated in vitro and adoptively transferred into mice bearing large tumors in the presence or absence of an orally available TGF-β receptor-I kinase blocker (SM16).
We observed markedly smaller tumors in the group receiving the combination of SM16 chow and adoptive transfer. Additional investigation revealed that TGF-β receptor blockade increased the persistence of adoptively transferred T-cells in the spleen and lymph nodes, increased numbers of adoptively transferred T-cells within tumors, increased activation of these infiltrating T-cells, and altered the tumor microenvironment with a significant increase in TNF-α and decrease in arginase mRNA expression
We found that systemic blockade of TGF-β receptor activity augmented the anti-tumor activity of adoptively transferred T-cells and may thus be a useful adjunct in future clinical trials.