Bergamaschi et al. explored the mechanisms by which heterodimeric IL-15/IL-15Rα (hetIL-15) improved MC38 and TC-1 tumor control. Without altering Tregs, hetIL-15 treatment increased CD8+ T cell and NK cell tumor infiltration, proliferation, and cytotoxic phenotype; both CD8+ and CD4+ T cells had higher GzmB and IFNγ expression. HetIL-15 therapy upregulated various chemokines within tumors, particularly XCL1 and CXCL9/10 in cytotoxic (NK and CD8+) and myeloid cells, respectively. HetIL-15 led to increased tumor infiltration of cDC1s, which also secreted CXCL9/10 in an IFNγ-dependent manner, suggesting a positive feedback loop with T and NK cells.
Contributed by Alex Najibi
BACKGROUND: Interleukin-15 (IL-15) promotes growth and activation of cytotoxic CD8(+) T and natural killer (NK) cells. Bioactive IL-15 is produced in the body as a heterodimeric cytokine, comprising the IL-15 and IL-15 receptor alpha chains (hetIL-15). Several preclinical models support the antitumor activity of hetIL-15 promoting its application in clinical trials. METHODS: The antitumor activity of hetIL-15 produced from mammalian cells was tested in mouse tumor models (MC38 colon carcinoma and TC-1 epithelial carcinoma). The functional diversity of the immune infiltrate and the cytokine/chemokine network within the tumor was evaluated by flow cytometry, multicolor immunohistochemistry (IHC), gene expression profiling by Nanostring Technologies, and protein analysis by electrochemiluminescence and ELISA assays. RESULTS: hetIL-15 treatment resulted in delayed primary tumor growth. Increased NK and CD8(+) T cell tumoral infiltration with an increased CD8(+)/Treg ratio were found by flow cytometry and IHC in hetIL-15 treated animals. Intratumoral NK and CD8(+) T cells showed activation features with enhanced interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production, proliferation (Ki67(+)), cytotoxic potential (Granzyme B(+)) and expression of the survival factor Bcl-2. Transcriptomics and proteomics analyses revealed complex effects on the tumor microenvironment triggered by hetIL-15 therapy, including increased levels of IFN-gamma and XCL1 with intratumoral accumulation of XCR1(+)IRF8(+)CD103(+) conventional type 1 dendritic cells (cDC1). Concomitantly, the production of the chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL10 by tumor-localized myeloid cells, including cDC1, was boosted by hetIL-15 in an IFN-gamma-dependent manner. An increased frequency of circulating CXCR3(+) NK and CD8(+) T cells was found, suggesting their ability to migrate toward the tumors following the CXCL9 and CXCL10 chemokine gradient. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that hetIL-15 administration enhances T cell entry into tumors, increasing the success rate of immunotherapy interventions. Our study further supports the incorporation of hetIL-15 in tumor immunotherapy approaches to promote the development of antitumor responses by favoring effector over regulatory cells and by promoting lymphocyte and DC localization into tumors through the modification of the tumor chemokine and cytokine milieu.