Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) express multiple checkpoint receptors, in contrast to lymphocytes found in the periphery (Matsuzaki et al PNAS 2010, Fourcade et al Cancer Res 2012, Gros et al JCI 2014). Checkpoint blockade has demonstrated increased clinical response rates relative to other treatment options; however, many patients fail to achieve a response to checkpoint blockade. We sought to identify an additional therapeutic modality to stack with checkpoint blockade that could increase patient response rate. We hypothesized that engagement of T cell costimulatory receptors in combination with checkpoint blockade could further increase T cell activation and proliferation. The combination of checkpoint blockade with costimulation could be accomplished using a bispecific antibody format, with the potential benefits of reduced cost and more selective targeting of TILs to improve safety.

Antibodies binding to immune checkpoint PD1 and a T cell costimulatory receptor were assembled in a bispecific antibody platform with substitutions in the Fc domain to suppress effector function. PD1 x costimulation (PD1 x costim) bispecific antibodies were evaluated in vitro by measuring antibody binding and de-repression of Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) stimulated PBMCs. IL2 and IFNγ production was measured by immunoassay. In vivo activity was evaluated using a mouse model in which human PBMCs are engrafted into NSG mice (huPBMC-NSG) and the extent of T cell engraftment is monitored by flow cytometry.

We produced PD1 x costim bispecific antibodies that bound PD1 and a T cell costimulatory receptor monovalently. The bispecifics bound to SEB-stimulated T cells more tightly than monovalent controls, indicating that a single bispecific molecule was capable of avid simultaneous co-engagement of both PD1 and a costimulatory receptor. The bispecifics enhanced IL2 and IFNγ production in an in vitro SEB stimulation assay relative to control (p < 0.001, n = 19 donors). IL2 and IFNγ production was superior to anti-PD1 or anti-costim antibodies alone (p < 0.001), indicating productive and synergistic combination of checkpoint blockade plus costimulation. Treatment of huPBMC-NSG mice with checkpoint bispecifics promoted enhanced T cell engraftment relative to control. Engraftment levels promoted by bispecifics were superior to those found for anti-PD1 treatment alone. For example, in one run of the model, while anti-PD1 treatment alone promoted a 2-fold increase in human CD45+ cells, a PD1 x costim bispecific antibody induced a 16-fold increase.

Combination of checkpoint blockade and costimulation with bispecific antibodies is feasible and promotes strong T cell activation in vitro and in vivo. Compelling activity suggests clinical development is warranted for the treatment of human malignancies.

Citation Format: Gregory L. Moore, Michael Hedvat, Matthew J. Bernett, Rajat Varma, Suzanne Schubbert, Christine Bonzon, Kendra N. Avery, Rumana Rashid, Alex Nisthal, Liz Bogaert, Irene W. Leung, Seung Y. Chu, Umesh S. Muchhal, John R. Desjarlais. Combination of PD1 blockade and T cell costimulation by bispecific antibodies promotes human T cell activation and proliferation [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 1639. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-1639