Cancer vaccines based on mRNA are extensively studied. The fragile nature of mRNA has instigated research into carriers that can protect it from ribonucleases and as such enable its systemic use. However, carrier-mediated delivery of mRNA has been linked to production of type I interferon (IFN) that was reported to compromise the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines. In this study, we evaluated a cationic lipid for encapsulation of mRNA. The nanometer-sized, negatively charged lipid mRNA particles (LMPs) efficiently transfected dendritic cells and macrophages in vitro. Furthermore, i.v. delivery of LMPs resulted in rapid expression of the mRNA-encoded protein in spleen and liver, predominantly in CD11c+ cells and to a minor extent in CD11b+ cells. Intravenous immunization of mice with LMPs containing ovalbumin, human papilloma virus E7, and tyrosinase-related protein-2 mRNA, either combined or separately, elicited strong antigen-specific T-cell responses. We further showed the production of type I IFNs upon i.v. LMP delivery. Although this decreased the expression of the mRNA-encoded protein, it supported the induction of antigen-specific T-cell responses. These data question the current notion that type I IFNs hamper particle-mediated mRNA vaccines.
cytotoxic T lymphocyte; immunotherapy; liposome; mRNA; particle; type I interferon
The lack of appropriate mouse models is likely one of the reasons of a limited translational success rate of therapeutic vaccines against cervical cancer, as rapidly growing ectopic tumours are commonly used for preclinical studies. In this work, we demonstrate that the tumour microenvironment of TC-1 tumours differs significantly depending on the anatomical location of tumour lesions (i.e. subcutaneously, in the lungs and in the genital tract). Our data demonstrate that E7-TriMix mRNA vaccine-induced CD8+ T lymphocytes migrate into the tumour nest and control tumour growth, although they do not express mucosa-associated markers such as CD103 or CD49a. We additionally show that despite the presence of the antigen-specific T cells in the tumour lesions, the therapeutic outcomes in the genital tract model remain limited. Here, we report that such a hostile tumour microenvironment can be reversed by cisplatin treatment, leading to a complete regression of clinically relevant tumours when combined with mRNA immunization. We thereby demonstrate the necessity of utilizing clinically relevant models for preclinical evaluation of anticancer therapies and the importance of a simultaneous combination of anticancer immune response induction with targeting of tumour environment.
The immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) is a major obstacle in cancer immunotherapy. Therefore, it has gained attention as a target site. mRNA emerged as a versatile drug class for cancer therapy. We reported that intratumoral administration of mRNA encoding the fusokine Fβ2 supports tumor-specific T-cell immunity. This study provides proof of concept of the use of mRNA to modulate the TME.
cancer; CD8+ T cell; dendritic cell; fusokine; immunotherapy; intratumoral; IFNβ; mRNA; TGFβ ; receptor II; CTLs, cytotoxic T lymphocytes; DCs, dendritic cells; Fβ2, a fusokine consisting of IFNβ, fused to the ectodomain of the TGFβ receptor II; IMP, investigational medicinal product; MDSCs, myeloid-derived suppressor cells; TAAs, tumor-associated antigens; TiDCs, tumor-infiltrating DCs; TME, tumor microenvironment
The identification of tumor-specific antigens and the immune responses directed against them has instigated the development of therapies to enhance antitumor immune responses. Most of these cancer immunotherapies are administered systemically rather than directly to tumors. Nonetheless, numerous studies have demonstrated that intratumoral therapy is an attractive approach, both for immunization and immunomodulation purposes. Injection, recruitment and/or activation of antigen-presenting cells in the tumor nest have been extensively studied as strategies to cross-prime immune responses. Moreover, delivery of stimulatory cytokines, blockade of inhibitory cytokines and immune checkpoint blockade have been explored to restore immunological fitness at the tumor site. These tumor-targeted therapies have the potential to induce systemic immunity without the toxicity that is often associated with systemic treatments. We review the most promising intratumoral immunotherapies, how these affect systemic antitumor immunity such that disseminated tumor cells are eliminated, and which approaches have been proven successful in animal models and patients.
Intratumoral; Immunotherapy; Tumor microenvironment; Immunomodulation; Vaccination
It is generally accepted that the success of immunotherapy depends on the presence of tumor-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and the modulation of the tumor environment. In this study, we validated mRNA encoding soluble factors as a tool to modulate the tumor microenvironment to potentiate infiltration of tumor-specific T cells. Intratumoral delivery of mRNA encoding a fusion protein consisting of interferon-β and the ectodomain of the transforming growth factor-β receptor II, referred to as Fβ2, showed therapeutic potential. The treatment efficacy was dependent on CD8+ T cells and could be improved through blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 interactions. In vitro studies revealed that administration of Fβ2 to tumor cells resulted in a reduced proliferation and increased expression of MHC I but also PD-L1. Importantly, Fβ2 enhanced the antigen presenting capacity of dendritic cells, whilst reducing the suppressive activity of myeloid-derived suppressor cells. In conclusion, these data suggest that intratumoral delivery of mRNA encoding soluble proteins, such as Fβ2, can modulate the tumor microenvironment, leading to effective antitumor T cell responses, which can be further potentiated through combination therapy.
mRNA; IFN-β; TGF-β; cancer therapy; T cell
Antigen-presenting cells are a heterogeneous group of cells that are characterized by their functional specialization. Consequently, targeting specific antigen-presenting cell subsets offers opportunities to induce distinct T cell responses. Here we report on the generation and use of nanobodies (Nbs) to target lentivectors specifically to human lymph node-resident myeloid dendritic cells, demonstrating that Nbs represent a powerful tool to redirect lentivectors to human antigen-presenting cell subsets.
To increase the safety and possibly efficacy of HIV-1 derived lentivectors (LVs) as an anti-cancer vaccine, we recently developed the Nanobody (Nb) display technology to target LVs to antigen presenting cells (APCs). In this study, we extend these data with exclusive targeting of LVs to conventional dendritic cells (DCs), which are believed to be the main cross-presenting APCs for the induction of a TH1-conducted antitumor immune response. The immunogenicity of these DC-subtype targeted LVs was compared to that of broad tropism, general APC-targeted and non-infectious LVs. Intranodal immunization with ovalbumin encoding LVs induced proliferation of antigen specific CD4+ T cells, irrespective of the LVs' targeting ability. However, the cytokine secretion profile of the restimulated CD4+ T cells demonstrated that general APC targeting induced a similar TH1-profile as the broad tropism LVs while transduction of conventional DCs alone induced a similar and less potent TH1 profile as the non-infectious LVs. This observation contradicts the hypothesis that conventional DCs are the most important APCs and suggests that the activation of other APCs is also meaningful. Despite these differences, all targeted LVs were able to stimulate cytotoxic T lymphocytes, be it to a lesser extent than broad tropism LVs. Furthermore this induction was shown to be dependent on type I interferon for the targeted and non-infectious LVs, but not for broad tropism LVs. Finally we demonstrated that the APC-targeted LVs were as potent in therapy as broad tropism LVs and as such deliver on their promise as safer and efficacious LV-based vaccines.
lentivector; targeting; antigen presenting cell; vaccine; antitumor immunotherapy
Tumor antigen–encoding mRNA for dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccination has gained increasing popularity in recent years. Within this context, two main strategies have entered the clinical trial stage: the use of mRNA for ex vivo antigen loading of DCs and the direct application of mRNA as a source of antigen for DCs in vivo. DCs transfected with mRNA-encoding Wilms' tumor 1 (WT1) protein have shown promising clinical results. Using a stepwise approach, we re-engineered a WT1 cDNA-carrying transcription vector to improve the translational characteristics and immunogenicity of the transcribed mRNA. Different modifications were performed: (i) the WT1 sequence was flanked by the lysosomal targeting sequence of dendritic cell lysosomal-associated membrane protein to enhance cytoplasmic expression; (ii) the nuclear localization sequence (NLS) of WT1 was deleted to promote shuttling from the nucleus to the cytoplasm; (iii) the WT1 DNA sequence was optimized in silico to improve translational efficiency; and (iv) this WT1 sequence was cloned into an optimized RNA transcription vector. DCs electroporated with this optimized mRNA showed an improved ability to stimulate WT1-specific T-cell immunity. Furthermore, in a murine model, we were able to show the safety, immunogenicity, and therapeutic activity of this optimized mRNA. This work is relevant for the future development of improved mRNA-based vaccine strategies K.
Two decades ago, mRNA became the focus of research in molecular medicine and was proposed as an active pharmaceutical ingredient for the therapy of cancer. In this regard, mRNA has been mainly used for ex vivo modification of antigen-presenting cells (APCs), such as dendritic cells (DCs). This vaccination strategy has proven to be safe, well tolerated and capable of inducing tumor antigen-specific immune responses. Recently, the direct application of mRNA for in situ modification of APCs, hence immunization was shown to be feasible and at least as effective as DC-based immunization in pre-clinical models. It is believed that application of mRNA as an off-the-shelf vaccine represents an important step in the development of future cancer immunotherapeutic strategies. Here, we will discuss the use of ex vivo mRNA-modified DCs and “naked mRNA” for cancer immunotherapy focusing on parameters such as the employed DC subtype, DC activation stimulus and route of immunization. In addition, we will provide an overview on the clinical trials published so far, trying to link their outcome to the aforementioned parameters.
mRNA; dendritic cell; immunotherapy; cancer
Mimetics of second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (SMAC) enhance tumor cell death in a variety of cancers. Several molecular mechanisms of action have been identified. However, it was only recently that the modus of action was linked to stimulation of anti-tumor immunity. Here we comment on these findings, highlighting several remaining questions.
SMAC; lentiviral vector; dendritic cell; T cell; cancer
A deficit in IL-4 production has been previously reported in both diabetic human patients and non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. In addition, re-introducing IL-4 into NOD mice systemically, or as a transgene, led to a beneficial outcome in most studies. Here, we show that prediabetic, 12-wk old female NOD mice have a deficit in IL-4 expression in the pancreatic lymph nodes (PLN) compared to age-matched diabetes-resistant NOD.B10 mice. By bioluminescence imaging, we demonstrated that the PLN was preferentially targeted by bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (DCs) following intravenous (IV) administration. Following IV injection of DCs transduced to express IL-4 (DC/IL-4) into 12-wk old NOD mice, it was possible to significantly delay or prevent the onset of hyperglycemia. We then focused on the PLN to monitor, by microarray analysis, changes in gene expression induced by DC/IL-4 and observed a rapid normalization of the expression of many genes, that were otherwise under-expressed compared to NOD.B10 PLN. The protective effect of DC/IL-4 required both MHC and IL-4 expression by the DCs. Thus, adoptive cellular therapy, using DCs modified to express IL-4, offers an effective, tissue-targeted cellular therapy to prevent diabetes in NOD mice at an advanced stage of pre-diabetes, and may offer a safe approach to consider for treatment of high risk human pre-diabetic patients.