IL15 is a potent inducer of differentiation and proliferation of CD8+ T and natural killer (NK) cells, making it a promising candidate for cancer immunotherapy. However, limited efficacy of systemic monotherapy utilizing intravenous IL15 suggests the needs for alternative routes of administration or combination treatment with other therapies. Near-infrared photoimmunotherapy (NIR-PIT) is a highly selective anticancer treatment that elicits a massive release of tumor antigens and immunogenic signals. Here, we investigated whether intratumoral IL15 can enhance the effectiveness of cancer cell-targeted NIR-PIT using syngeneic murine tumor models. Intratumoral injection of IL15 was more effective than intraperitoneal IL15 in vivo in suppressing tumor growth and inducing intratumoral immune responses. When the efficacy of CD44-targeted NIR-PIT was compared in vivo between IL15-secreting MC38 (hIL15-MC38) and parental MC38 tumors, the hIL15-MC38/NIR-PIT group showed the best tumor growth inhibition and survival. In addition, the hIL15-MC38/NIR-PIT group showed significant dendritic cell maturation and significant increases in the number and Granzyme B expression of tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T, NK, and natural killer T cells compared with the treated parental line. Furthermore, intratumoral IL15 injection combined with CD44-targeted NIR-PIT showed significant tumor control in MC38 and Pan02-luc tumor models. In bilateral tumor models, CD44-targeted NIR-PIT in hIL15-MC38 tumors significantly suppressed the growth of untreated MC38 tumors, suggesting abscopal effects. Mice that achieved complete response after the combination therapy completely rejected later tumor rechallenge. In conclusion, local IL15 administration synergistically improves the efficacy of cancer cell–targeted NIR-PIT probably by inducing stronger anticancer immunity, indicating its potential as an anticancer treatment strategy.

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