The transcription factor T-bet controls the Th1 genetic program in T cells for effective antitumor responses. Anti-CTLA-4 immunotherapy elicits dramatic antitumor responses in mice and in human patients; however, factors that regulate T-bet expression during an antitumor response mediated by anti-CTLA-4 remain to be elucidated. We were the first to report that treatment with anti-CTLA-4 led to an increase in the frequency of T cells expressing inducible costimulator (ICOS). In both treated patients and mice, our data revealed that CD4+ICOShi T cells can act as effector T cells, which produce the Th1 cytokine IFN-γ. We also showed in a small retrospective analysis that an increased frequency of CD4+ICOShi T cells correlated with better clinical outcome and the absence of ICOS or its ligand (ICOSL) in mouse models led to impaired tumor rejection. Here, we show that CD4+ICOShi T cells from anti-CTLA-4–treated patients had an increase in signaling via the phospoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway and an increase in expression of T-bet. An ICOS-specific siRNA transfected into human T cells led to diminished PI3K signaling and T-bet expression. Therefore, we hypothesized that ICOS, and specifically ICOS-mediated PI3K signaling, was required for T-bet expression. We conducted studies in ICOS-deficient and ICOS-YF mice, which have a single amino acid change that abrogates PI3K signaling by ICOS. We found that ICOS-mediated PI3K signaling is required for T-bet expression during an antitumor response elicited by anti-CTLA-4 therapy. Our data provide new insight into the regulation of T-bet expression and suggest that ICOS can be targeted to improve Th1 antitumor responses. Cancer Immunol Res; 2(2); 1–10. ©2013 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Immunology Research Online (http://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received September 17, 2013.
- Revision received October 22, 2013.
- Accepted October 28, 2013.
- ©2013 American Association for Cancer Research.