Coinhibitory receptor blockade is a promising strategy to boost T cell immunity against a variety of human cancers. However, many patients still do not benefit from this treatment, and responders often experience immune-related toxicities. These issues highlight the need for advanced mechanistic understanding to improve patient outcomes and uncover clinically relevant biomarkers of treatment efficacy. However, the T cell-intrinsic signaling pathways engaged during checkpoint blockade treatment are not well defined, particularly for combination approaches. Using a murine model to study how effector CD8+ T cell responses to tumors may be enhanced in a tolerizing environment, we identified a critical role for the T-box transcription factor T-bet. Combination blockade of CTLA-4, PD-1, and LAG-3 induced T-bet expression in responding tumor/self-reactive CD8+ T cells. Eradication of established leukemia using this immunotherapy regimen depended on T-bet induction, which was required for IFNγ production and cytotoxicity by tumor-infiltrating T cells, and for efficient trafficking to disseminated tumor sites. These data provide new insight into the success of checkpoint blockade for cancer immunotherapy, revealing T-bet as a key transcriptional regulator of tumor-reactive CD8+ T cell effector differentiation under otherwise tolerizing conditions.
- Received August 26, 2014.
- Revision received November 7, 2014.
- Accepted December 8, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014, American Association for Cancer Research.