Background: Interferon beta (IFN-β), a promising potent cytokine, has been attracting attention for treatment of cancer. The pleiotropic antitumor effects of IFN-β have been studied, with specific reference to their direct role on cancer cells and indirect action through the immune effector cells. However, its systemic toxicities and poor biophysical properties prevent IFN-β from being widely used for cancer therapy. Since the potential of cytokine therapies are impaired due to dose-limiting systemic toxicities, novel treatment methods should be developed to safely deliver effective drug quantities at the tumor sites. Like antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), immunocytokine can be attempted to induce cytokine's organ-targeting and alleviate its systemic side effects. Here, we designed recombinant IFN-β mutein immunocytokines that comprise a HER2-targeting antibody and IFN-β mutein, and evaluate the antitumor properties against HER2-positive cancers.Method: A panel of human gastric cancer cell lines was treated with trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein to evaluate direct antitumor effect. In addition, to test the immune cell-mediated antitumor effect, cancer cells were co-cultured with effector cells (e.g. PBMC) in the absence or drug. The antitumor efficacy of trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein in vivo was tested in HER2-positive cancer xenograft models using nude mice or humanized mice. Result: Trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein directly inhibited the growth of HER2-positive gastric cancer cell lines and was more effective than trastuzumab or IFN-β mutein alone. Trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein also displayed enhanced immune cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Collectively, trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein may have indirect immune cell-mediated antitumor effects and direct cell growth inhibitory effects. Moreover, trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein significantly suppress tumor growth in HER2-positive cancer xenograft models. Tumor-infiltration of lymphocytes was enhanced by trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein, implying that the tumor-targeting IFN-β may have an antitumor effect through increased immune response. Conclusion: We have characterized and evaluated the antitumor properties of trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein in HER2-expressing cancers. Since IFN-β activates antitumor immune responses, it is expected to be administered in combination with immunotherapeutic drugs. Therefore, the study suggests that trastuzumab-IFN-β mutein is a promising candidate for the treatment of HER2-positive carcinoma.

Citation Format: Chan Gyu Lee, Tae Eun Kim, Sungyoul Hong, Jongwan Chu, Ju Eun Kang, Hae Min Jeong, Young Kee Shin. HER2-targeted interferon-beta-1a mutein, a potent immunocytokine for the treatment of HER2-positive cancers [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 LB170.