NL-201 is a stable IL-2/IL-15 mimetic that does not bind the high-affinity α receptor subunit, to prevent activation of Tregs, and is pegylated to improve pharmacokinetic half-life. Mortales et al. showed that NL-201 induced antitumor immunity in immune-cold mouse tumors. This effect was associated with increased tumoral MHC-I and PD-L1 expression, which depended on effector cell IFNγ production. Combination treatment with anti-PD-1 in several cold murine tumor models revealed synergistic antitumor efficacy. Treatment increased the clonal diversity of tumoral T cells and increased the number of IFNγ-producing CD8+ and CD4+ Th1 cells, but not Tregs.
Contributed by Maartje Wouters
ABSTRACT: Cytokine engineering has shown promise as a means to create novel immunomodulatory agents or to improve upon the therapeutic potential of natural cytokines. NL-201, a de novo, hyperstable, interleukin-2 receptor alpha (IL-2R_)-independent agonist of the receptors for IL-2 and IL-15, elicits robust preclinical activity in syngeneic murine cancer models, including those resistant to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). Here, we report that NL-201 monotherapy converts 'cold' tumor microenvironments to immunologically 'hot' states by driving pro-inflammatory gene expression, enhancing IFN_-dependent MHC-I expression, and expanding both T-cell number and clonal diversity. Additionally, the combination of NL-201 and anti-PD-1 resulted in complementary antitumor activity in the immunologically 'cold' and ICI resistant B16F10, EMT6, and Renca syngeneic models. In the B16F10 model, treatment with NL-201 plus anti-PD-1 increased the abundance of CD4+ and CD8+ effector T cells in the tumor microenvironment. These findings reveal an important mechanistic basis for the antitumor activity of NL-201 both as a monotherapy and in combination with PD-1 antagonists, and provide further context for the role of IL2R_-based signaling in ICI-resistant tumors.