The goal of this study was to investigate the therapeutic potential of a novel immunotherapy strategy resulting in immunity to localized or metastatic HPV 16-transformed murine tumors.
Animals bearing E7-expressing tumors were co-immunized by lymph node injection with E7 49-57 antigen and TLR3-ligand (synthetic dsRNA). Immune responses were measured by flow cytometry and anti-tumor efficacy was evaluated by tumor size and survival. In situ cytotoxicity assays and identification of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and T regulatory cells were used to assess the mechanisms of treatment resistance in bulky disease. Chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide was explored to augment immunotherapy in late-stage disease.
In therapeutic and prophylactic settings, immunization resulted in a considerable expansion of E7 49-57 antigen-specific T lymphocytes in the range of 1/10 CD8+ T cells. The resulting immunity was effective in suppressing disease progression and mortality in a pulmonary metastatic disease model. Therapeutic immunization resulted in control of isolated tumors up to a certain volume, and correlated with anti-tumor immune responses measured in blood. In situ analysis showed that within bulky tumors, T cell function was affected by negative regulatory mechanisms linked to an increase in T regulatory cells and could be overcome by cyclophosphamide treatment in conjunction with immunization.
This study highlights a novel cancer immunotherapy platform with potential for translatability to the clinic and suggests its potential usefulness for controlling metastatic disease, solid tumors of limited size, or larger tumors when combined with cytotoxic agents that reduce the number of tumor-infiltrating T regulatory cells.