Cytokine engineering has shown promise as a means to create novel immunomodulatory agents or to improve upon the therapeutic potential of natural cytokines. NL-201, a de novo, hyperstable, IL2 receptor alpha (IL2Rα)–independent agonist of the receptors for IL2 and IL15, elicits robust preclinical activity in syngeneic murine cancer models, including those resistant to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). Here, we report that NL-201 monotherapy converts ‘cold’ tumor microenvironments (TME) to immunologically ‘hot’ states by driving pro-inflammatory gene expression, enhancing IFNγ-dependent MHC-I expression, and expanding both T-cell number and clonal diversity. In addition, the combination of NL-201 and anti–PD-1 resulted in complementary antitumor activity in the immunologically ‘cold’ and ICI resistant B16F10, EMT6, and Renca syngeneic models. In the B16F10 model, treatment with NL-201 plus anti–PD-1 increased the abundance of CD4+ and CD8+ effector T cells in the TME. These findings reveal an important mechanistic basis for the antitumor activity of NL-201 both as a monotherapy and in combination with PD-1 antagonists, and provide further context for the role of IL2Rα-based signaling in ICI-resistant tumors.

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