Background: Low-grade non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphomas are generally incurable, with standard therapies inducing only temporary remissions. Preliminary results with anti-PD-1 therapy have yielded low response rates, though tumor-targeted vaccines represent promising, novel treatment strategies. In a pre-clinical mouse model, we attempt to develop and optimize an in situ vaccine combining recruitment of dendritic cells (DC) and low-dose local radiotherapy (XRT) with intratumoral (i.t) administration of a toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist Methods: A20 lymphoma-bearing mice were injected i.t. with FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 ligand (Flt3L) daily for 9 days (30ug/mouse), followed by local XRT (9Gy) and i.t. injections of poly-ICLC (50ug/mouse) for 5 days. Leukocyte accumulation in tumors, lymph nodes, and spleens was analyzed by flow cytometry and animals were monitored for tumor growth and survival. To assess uptake of tumor antigens by DC, mCherry-expressing A20 cells were used. For assessment of systemic anti-tumor response tumors were inoculated on both flanks, but only one site was treated as described before. In some groups, anti-PD-1 blocking antibody was injected systemically during vaccination.

Results: Injection of Flt3L induced potent accumulation of DC at the tumor site, tumor-draining lymph node (TDLN) and the spleen, with intratumoral injection being superior to systemic injection in increasing intratumoral and TDLN DCs. Interestingly, Flt3L-treatment led to an 8-fold increase in TLR3+ DC in the tumor. Local XRT increased the amount of mCherry+ DC in the tumor, indicating enhanced uptake of dying tumor cells. XRT of A20 cells also induced activation of Flt3L-treated splenic DC in vitro. While combination of FLt3L and local XRT was not able to cure established tumors, the combination of Flt3L and XRT with poly-ICLC induced long-lasting tumor regression in 40% of mice as well as regression of untreated tumors. This was accompanied by induction of tumor-reactive, Interferon γ (IFN γ)-producing T cells. Of note, the combination of Flt3L and XRT increased expression of PD-1 and PD-L1 on tumor infiltrating T cells and tumor cells, respectively. Consistently, systemic treatment with a PD-1 blocking antibody significantly enhanced the efficacy of the Flt3L-primed in situ vaccine leading to complete tumor regression at the treated site and a significant survival benefit compared to the in situ vaccine without PD-1 blockade. PD-1 blockade also increased the number of tumor-reactive T cells.

Conclusions: In situ vaccination combining intratumoral Flt3L injection with local XRT, poly-ICLC and anti-PD-1 induces a potent anti-tumor immune response able to induce long-term regression of established lymphoma tumors.

Citation Format: Linda Hammerich, Thomas Davis, Tibor Keler, Andres M. Salazar, Joshua D. Brody. Combining in situ vaccination with immune checkpoint blockade induces long-term regression of lymphoma tumors [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Second CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; 2016 Sept 25-28; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2016;4(11 Suppl):Abstract nr A012.