Blockade of PD-1 on murine ovarian tumor-infiltrating dendritic cells (TIDC) led to an increased release of IL-10, which in turn increased PD-1 expression on TIDCs, creating an immune escape feedback loop. While either monotherapy was ineffective, combination of anti-PD-1 and anti-IL-10/IL-10R prolonged survival by enhancing the infiltration of activated tumor-specific T and B cells and by reducing the recruitment of myeloid-derived suppressor cells into the ascites of tumor-bearing mice.
Ligation of PD-1 in the tumor microenvironment is known to inhibit effective adaptive anti-tumor immunity. Blockade of PD-1 in humans has resulted in impressive, durable regression responses in select tumor types. However, durable responses have been elusive in ovarian cancer patients. PD-1 was recently shown to be expressed on and thereby impair the functions of tumor-infiltrating murine and human myeloid dendritic cells (TIDC) in ovarian cancer. In the present work, we characterize the regulation of PD-1 expression and the effects of PD-1 blockade on TIDC. Treatment of TIDC and bone marrow-derived DC with IL-10 led to increased PD-1 expression. Both groups of DC also responded to PD-1 blockade by increasing production of IL-10. Similarly, treatment of ovarian tumor-bearing mice with PD-1 blocking antibody resulted in an increase in IL-10 levels in both serum and ascites. While PD-1 blockade or IL-10 neutralization as monotherapies were inefficient, combination of these two led to improved survival and delayed tumor growth; this was accompanied by augmented anti-tumor T and B cell responses and decreased infiltration of immunosuppressive MDSC. Taken together, our findings implicate compensatory release of IL-10 as one of the adaptive resistance mechanisms that undermine the efficacy of anti-PD-1 (or anti-PD-L1) monotherapies and prompts further studies aimed at identifying such resistance mechanisms.