Deploying CD40 activation to stimulate T cell responses upstream of immune checkpoint molecules is a novel clinical opportunity for cancer immunotherapy. Despite numerous active clinical trials with agonistic CD40 monoclonal antibodies (mAb), biological treatment effects especially treatment-related modulation of the tumor microenvironment (TME), remain poorly understood. Here, we performed a neoadjuvant clinical trial of agonistic CD40 mAb (selicrelumab) administered intravenously with or without chemotherapy (gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel) to 16 resectable patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) prior to surgery followed by adjuvant chemotherapy and CD40 mAb. The toxicity profile was acceptable, including only grade 1 or 2 cytokine release syndrome and expected toxicities from chemotherapy. Disease-free survival was 13.8 months (95% CI 2.9 - 24.8 months) and median overall survival was 23.4 months (95% CI 18.0 - 28.8), with 8 patients alive at a median of 20.0 months after surgery (follow-up range 12.2 to 34.8 months). Neoadjuvant selicrelumab induced major pharmacodynamic differences in the TME, as revealed by a multiplex imaging platform auditing the immune ecosystem, compared to resection specimens from PDAC patient previously untreated or given neoadjuvant chemotherapy/chemoradiotherapy only. For tumors resected after selicrelumab, 82% (9/11) were T-cell enriched, compared to 37% (38/104) (p=0.004) of untreated tumors and 23% (93/13) of chemotherapy/chemoradiation-treated tumors (p=0.012). Moreover, for selicrelumab tumors, tumor-associated fibrosis was less, “M2” macrophages were fewer, dendritic cells were more mature, and T cells were activated and proliferative, compared to the non-selicrelumab groups. In the periphery, CD8+ and CD4+ T cells were more activated and proliferative, and serum inflammatory cytokines CXCL10 and CCL22 increased after treatment. This study provides proof-of-concept in patients that agonistic CD40 mAb alters the TME, enhances T-cell infiltration, and modulates systemic inflammatory responses. These findings inform design of next-generation CD40 clinical trials.

Citation Format: Katelyn T. Byrne, Courtney B. Betts, Rosemarie Mick, Shamilene Sivagnanam, David L. Bajor, Daniel A. Laheru, E. Gabriela Chiorean, Mark H. O'Hara, Shannon M. Liudahl, Craig Newcomb, Cécile Alanio, Ana P. Ferreira, Byung S. Park, Takuya Ohtani, Austin P. Huffman, Sara A. Väyrynen, Andressa Dias Costa, Judith C. Kaiser, Andreanne M. Lacroix, Colleen Redlinger, Martin Stern, Jonathan A. Nowak, E. John Wherry, Martin A. Cheever, Brian M. Wolpin, Emma E. Furth, Elizabeth M. Jaffee, Lisa M. Coussens, Robert H. Vonderheide. T cell inflammation in the tumor microenvironment after agonist CD40 antibody: Clinical and translational results of a neoadjuvant clinical trial [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr CT005.