In mouse tumor models, intratumoral delivery of MEDI9197 – a TLR7/8 agonist with a lipid tail designed to improve retention at the injection site and prevent systemic toxicity – induced Th1 polarization, a type I IFN response, the formation of lymphoid aggregates, an increase in the proportion of CD8+ T cells within TILs, activation of CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and NK cells, and tumor growth inhibition. MEDI9197 also enhanced the antitumor efficacy of PD-L1 blockade, agonist OX40 mAb, and GITRL fusion protein. In human PBMCs in vitro, MEDI9197 activated innate and adaptive immune cells and induced secretion of IFNα, IFNγ, and IL-12.
BACKGROUND: Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) promotes adaptive immunity and tumor regression in some cancer patients. However, in patients with immunologically "cold" tumors, tumor-resident innate immune cell activation may be required to prime an adaptive immune response and so exploit the full potential of ICB. Whilst Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists have been used topically to successfully treat some superficial skin tumors, systemic TLR agonists have not been well-tolerated. METHODS: The response of human immune cells to TLR7 and 8 agonism was measured in primary human immune cell assays. MEDI9197 (3M-052) was designed as a novel lipophilic TLR7/8 agonist that is retained at the injection site, limiting systemic exposure. Retention of the TLR7/8 agonist at the site of injection was demonstrated using quantitative whole-body autoradiography, HPLC-UV, and MALDI mass spectrometry imaging. Pharmacodynamic changes on T cells from TLR7/8 agonist treated B16-OVA tumors was assessed by histology, quantitative real time PCR, and flow cytometry. Combination activity of TLR7/8 agonism with immunotherapies was assessed in vitro by human DC-T cell MLR assay, and in vivo using multiple syngeneic mouse tumor models. RESULTS: Targeting both TLR7 and 8 triggers an innate and adaptive immune response in primary human immune cells, exemplified by secretion of IFNalpha, IL-12 and IFNgamma. In contrast, a STING or a TLR9 agonist primarily induces release of IFNalpha. We demonstrate that the TLR7/8 agonist, MEDI9197, is retained at the sight of injection with limited systemic exposure. This localized TLR7/8 agonism leads to Th1 polarization, enrichment and activation of natural killer (NK) and CD8(+) T cells, and inhibition of tumor growth in multiple syngeneic models. The anti-tumor activity of this TLR7/8 agonist is enhanced when combined with T cell-targeted immunotherapies in pre-clinical models. CONCLUSION: Localized TLR7/8 agonism can enhance recruitment and activation of immune cells in tumors and polarize anti-tumor immunity towards a Th1 response. Moreover, we demonstrate that the anti-tumor effects of this TLR7/8 agonist can be enhanced through combination with checkpoint inhibitors and co-stimulatory agonists.