CD40 stimulation on antigen-presenting cells (APC) allows direct activation of CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, independent of CD4+ T-cell help. Agonistic anti-CD40 antibodies have been demonstrated to induce beneficial antitumor T-cell responses in mouse models of cancer and early clinical trials. We report here that anti-CD40 treatment induces programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) upregulation on tumor-infiltrating monocytes and macrophages, which was strictly dependent on T cells and IFNγ. PD-L1 expression could be counteracted by coadministration of antibodies blocking the PD-1 (programmed death-1)/PD-L1 axis as shown for T cells from tumor models and human donors. The combined treatment was highly synergistic and induced complete tumor rejection in about 50% of mice bearing MC-38 colon and EMT-6 breast tumors. Mechanistically, this was reflected by a strong increase of IFNγ and granzyme-B production in intratumoral CD8+ T cells. Concomitant CTLA-4 blockade further improved rejection of established tumors in mice. This study uncovers a novel mechanism of acquired resistance upon agonistic CD40 stimulation and proposes that the concomitant blockade of the PD-1/PD-L1 axis is a viable therapeutic strategy to optimize clinical outcomes. Cancer Immunol Res; 3(3); 1–9. ©2015 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Immunology Research Online (http://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received December 3, 2014.
- Revision received January 9, 2015.
- Accepted January 12, 2015.
- ©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.