Tumor-specific crosslinking of GITR as costimulation for immunotherapy

Tanja Burckhart, Markus Thiel, Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, Thomas Wüest, Dafne Müller, Alfred Zippelius, Gerd Ritter, Lloyd Old, Hiroshi Shiku, Christoph Renner
Journal of Immunotherapy 2010, 33 (9): 925-34
Activation of murine glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor-related receptor (mGITR) by its natural ligand (GITRL) or antiGITR agonist mAb enhances T-cell responses, inhibits regulatory T-cell (Treg)-mediated suppression and induces tumor immunity in a variety of murine tumor models. However, systemic administration of these costimulatory agents can lead to global T-cell activation and autoimmunity. To specifically manipulate the T-cell compartment in the tumor microenvironment we propose to target the tumor infiltrating T cells with a bispecific mGITRL fusion protein. For that purpose, mGITRL is linked to a single-chain antibody targeting fibroblast activation protein (FAP) as FAP expression is restricted to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) found in the stroma of epithelial cancers. AntiFAP-mGITRL fusion protein forms dimers and binds to murine GITR with 1.2 μM affinity and to murine FAP with 4.5 nM. The construct is able to costimulate CD8+ and CD4+ effector T cells resulting in increased proliferation, IFN-γ and IL-2 production. This costimulatory effect is enhanced when the fusion protein is bound to a FAP-positive cell line mimicking FAP CAFs. In suppression assays, membrane-bound antiFAP-mGITRL is 100-fold more effective in overcoming Treg-mediated suppression than unbound fusion protein. These studies suggest that targeted tumor therapy with antiFAP-mGITRL fusion protein could induce tumor rejection while minimizing autoimmune side effects.

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