Combined Trabectedin and anti-PD1 antibody produces a synergistic antitumor effect in a murine model of ovarian cancer
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Abstract Background Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) that block programmed death (PD)-1 signaling pathway hold great potential as a novel cancer immunotherapy. Recent evidence suggests that combining with conventional, targeted or other immunotherapies, these mAb can induce synergistic antitumor responses. In this study, we investigated whether Trabectedin (ET-743), a novel anticancer agent currently used for treating relapsed ovarian cancer, can synergize with anti (α)-PD-1 mAb to increase antitumor activity in the murine ID8 ovarian cancer model. Methods Mice with established peritoneal ID8 tumor were treated with either single or combined Trabectedin and α-PD-1 mAb, their overall survival was recorded; tumor-associated immune cells and immune gene expression in tumors from treated mice were analyzed by flow cytometry and quantitative RT-PCR, respectively, and antigen-specific immunity of effector CD8+ T cells was evaluated by ELISA and cytotoxicity assay. In addition, the effect of Trabectedin on tumoral PD-L1 expression was analyzed by both flow cytometry and immunofluorescence staining. Results Though single treatment showed a modest antitumor effect in mice bearing 10-day-established ID8 tumor, combined Trabectedin and α-PD-1 mAb treatment induced a strong antitumor immune response, leading to a significant tumor regression with half of mice tumor-free 90 days after tumor inoculation. Mechanistic investigation revealed that combination treatment induces a systemic tumor-specific immunity with an indispensable role of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, and effector CD8+ T cells exhibited the antigen-specific cytokine secretion and cytotoxicity upon tumor antigen stimulation; additionally, combination treatment increased the IFN-γ-producing effector T cells and decreased the immunosuppressive cells in peritoneal cavity; accordingly, it enhanced the expression of Th1-associated immune-stimulating genes while reducing the transcription of regulatory/suppressive immune genes, reshaping tumor microenvironment from a immunosuppressive to a stimulatory state. Finally, in vivo Trabectedin treatment has been shown to induce IFN-γ-dependent PD-L1 expression within tumor, possibly constituting a mechanistic basis for its synergistic antitumor effect with α-PD-1 mAb therapy. Conclusion This study provides the evidence that α-PD-1 mAb can produce a synergistic antitumor efficacy when combined with Trabectedin, a clinically available anticancer agent, supporting a direct translation of this combination strategy in clinic for the treatment of ovarian cancer.