IL-27 gene therapy induces depletion of Tregs and enhances the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.

Zhu J, Liu JQ, Shi M, Cheng X, Ding M, Zhang JC, Davis JP, Varikuti S, Satoskar AR, Lu L, Pan X, Zheng P, Liu Y, Bai XF
JCI Insight 3 04/05/2018


Tumor-induced expansion of Tregs is a significant obstacle to cancer immunotherapy. However, traditional approaches to deplete Tregs are often inefficient, provoking autoimmunity. We show here that administration of IL-27-expressing recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV-IL-27) significantly inhibits tumor growth and enhances T cell responses in tumors. Strikingly, we found that AAV-IL-27 treatment causes rapid depletion of Tregs in peripheral blood, lymphoid organs, and - most pronouncedly - tumor microenvironment. AAV-IL-27-mediated Treg depletion is dependent on IL-27 receptor and Stat1 in Tregs and is a combined result of CD25 downregulation in Tregs and inhibition of IL-2 production by T cells. In combination with a GM-CSF vaccine, AAV-IL-27 treatment not only induced nearly complete tumor rejection, but also resulted in amplified neoantigen-specific T cell responses. AAV-IL-27 also dramatically increased the efficacy of anti-PD-1 therapy, presumably due to induction of PD-L1 in T cells and depletion of Tregs. Importantly, AAV-IL-27 therapy did not induce significant adverse events, partially due to its induction of IL-10. In a plasmacytoma mouse model, we found that IL-10 was required for AAV-IL-27-mediated tumor rejection. Thus, our study demonstrates the potential of AAV-IL-27 as an independent cancer therapeutic and as an efficient adjuvant for cancer immunotherapy.

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