CD27 Agonism Plus PD-1 Blockade Recapitulates CD4+ T-cell Help in Therapeutic Anticancer Vaccination.

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Cancer Res. 2016 May 15;76(10):2921-31. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-3130. Epub 2016 Mar 28.

CD27 Agonism Plus PD-1 Blockade Recapitulates CD4+ T-cell Help in Therapeutic Anticancer Vaccination.

T Ahrends;N Bąbała;Y Xiao;H Yagita;H van Eenennaam;J Borst

Division of Immunology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute-Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Department of Immunology, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan. Aduro Biotech Europe, Oss, the Netherlands.

Service type: Knock-in mice


While showing promise, vaccination strategies to treat cancer require further optimization. Likely barriers to efficacy involve cancer-associated immunosuppression and peripheral tolerance, which limit the generation of effective vaccine-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). Because CD4(+) T cells improve CTL responsiveness, next-generation vaccines include helper epitopes. Here, we demonstrate in mice how CD4(+) T-cell help optimizes the CTL response to a clinically relevant DNA vaccine engineered to combat human papillomavirus-expressing tumors. Inclusion of tumor-unrelated helper epitopes greatly increased CTL priming, effector, and memory T-cell programming. CD4(+) T-cell help optimized the CTL response in all these aspects via CD27/CD70 costimulation. Notably, administration of an agonistic CD27 antibody could largely replace helper epitopes in promoting primary and memory CTL responses, acting directly on CD8(+) T cells. CD27 agonism improved efficacy of the vaccine without helper epitopes, more so than combined PD-1 and CTLA-4 blockade. Combining CD27 agonism with CTLA-4 blockade improved vaccine-induced CTL priming and tumor infiltration, but only combination with PD-1 blockade was effective at eradicating tumors, thereby fully recapitulating the effect of CD4(+) T-cell help on vaccine efficacy. PD-1 blockade alone did not affect CTL priming or tumor infiltration, so these results implied that it cooperated with CD4(+) T-cell help by alleviating immune suppression against CTL in the tumor. Helper epitope inclusion or CD27 agonism did not stimulate regulatory T cells, and vaccine efficacy was also improved by CD27 agonism in the presence of CD4(+) T-cell help. Our findings provide a preclinical rationale to apply CD27 agonist antibodies, either alone or combined with PD-1 blockade, to improve the therapeutic efficacy of cancer vaccines and immunotherapy generally.

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