IL12-based local gene therapy of cancer constitutes an active area of clinical research using plasmids, mRNAs, and viral vectors. To improve antitumor effects, we have experimentally tested the combination of mRNA constructs encoding IL12 and IL18. Moreover, we have used a form of IL18 [decoy-resistant IL18 (DR-18)] which has preserved bioactivity but does not bind to the IL18 binding protein decoy receptor. Both cytokines dramatically synergize to induce IFNγ release from mouse splenocytes, and, if systemically cotransferred to the liver, they mediate lethal toxicity. However, if given intratumorally to B16OVA tumor-bearing mice, the combination attains efficacy against the directly treated tumor and moderate tumor-delaying activity on distant noninjected lesions. Cotreatment was conducive to the presence of more activated CD8+ T cells in the treated and noninjected tumors. In keeping with these findings, the efficacy of treatment was contingent on the integrity of CD8+ T cells and cDC1 dendritic cells in the treated mice. Furthermore, efficacy of IL12 plus DR-18 local mRNA coinjection against distant concomitant tumors could be enhanced upon combination with anti–PD-1 mAb systemic treatment, thus defining a feasible synergistic immunotherapy strategy.

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