The PD-1/PD-L1 (programmed cell death protein 1; programmed death-ligand 1) pathway plays a key role in immunological tolerance and autoimmunity. PD-1 is primarily expressed on activated T and B cells while its receptor, PD-L1, is expressed in a variety of cell types including resting lymphocytes, DCs, and macrophages. Recently, multiple human solid tumor types (melanoma, NSCLC, RCC, ovarian, and colorectal cancer) have been found to overexpress PD-L1 within its tumor microenvironment. More importantly, PD-1/PD-L1 blocking agents (pembrolizumab, nivolumab, lambrolizumab, MPDL3280A) have been found active as a single agent or in combination with chemotherapy and some have produced durable clinical responses. On the other hand, human epithelial tumors are also known to overexpress the high-affinity folate receptor (FR)-alpha that is capable of bringing folate-linked drugs into the cell cytosol via endocytosis. Using flow cytometry, we assessed PD-L1 expression in various FR-positive syngeneic mouse tumor models (M109, Renca, L1210A, 4T1-Cl2, ID8-Cl15). PD-L1 expression was found to vary significantly among different tumor types and could be found not only on CD45- malignant cells but also on tumor stromal cells such as F4/80+CD11b+ tumor-associated macrophages. Using a rat anti-mouse PD-1 antibody (clone RMP1-14), we studied in-vivo efficacy of a folate-targeted chemotherapy in combination with PD-1/PD-L1 blockage in PD-L1-expressing tumor models. In syngeneic models with high PD-L1 expression and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, a synergistic and curable anti-tumor effect was observed and the animals developed tumor-protective immunity against rechallenge. Thus, our preliminary results suggest that folate-targeted chemotherapeutics may also be enhanced by PD-1/PD-L1 blockage by means of overcoming tumor-mediated immune suppression

Citation Format: Yingjuan June Lu, Leroy W. Wheeler, Vicky Cross, Elaine Westrick, Alex Lloyd, Christopher P. Leamon. Combination therapy of folate-targeted chemotherapeutics with anti-PD-1 antibody against folate receptor-positive tumors in immunocompetent murine models. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2016 Apr 16-20; New Orleans, LA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2016;76(14 Suppl):Abstract nr 262.