Cancer Immunotherapy : Evolving Oncolytic viruses and CAR T-cells

Abstract: In the last decade cancer immunotherapy has taken huge strides forward from bench to bedside and being approved as drugs. Cancer immunotherapy harnesses the power of patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Approaches are diverse and include antibodies, therapeutic vaccines, adoptively transferred T-cells, immune checkpoint inhibitors, oncolytic viruses and immune cell activators such as toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists. Excellent clinical responses have been observed for certain cancers with checkpoint antibodies and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered T-cells. It is however becoming evident that strategies need to be combined for broader effective treatment responses because cancers evolve to escape immune recognition. A conditionally replication-competent oncolytic adenovirus (Ad5PTDf35-[Δ24]) was engineered to secrete Helicobacter pylori Neutrophil Activating Protein (HP-NAP, a TLR-2 agonist) to combine viral oncolysis and immune stimulation. Treatment with Ad5PTDf35-[Δ24-sNAP] improved survival of mice bearing human neuroendocrine tumors (BON). Expression of HP-NAP in the tumor microenvironment promoted neutrophil infiltration, proinflammatory cytokine secretion and increased necrosis. We further studied the ability of HP-NAP to activate dendritic cells (DCs) a key player in priming T-cell responses. HP-NAP phenotypically matured and activated DCs to secrete the T-helper type-1 (Th-1) polarizing cytokine IL-12. HP-NAP-matured DCs were functional; able to migrate to draining lymph nodes and prime antigen-specific T-cell proliferation. CAR T-cells were engineered to secrete HP-NAP upon T-cell activation. Secreted HP-NAP was able to mature DCs, leading to a reciprocal effect on the CAR T-cells with improved cytotoxicity in vitro. Semliki Forest virus (SFV), an oncolytic virus with natural neuro-tropism was tagged with central nervous system (CNS)-specific microRNA target sequences for miR124, miR125 and miR134 to selectively attenuate virus replication in healthy CNS cells. Systemic infection of mice with the SFV4miRT did not cause encephalitis, while it retained its ability to replicate in tumor cells and cure a big proportion of mice bearing syngeneic neuroblastoma and gliomas. Therapeutic efficacy of SFV4miRT inversely correlated with type-I antiviral interferon response (IFN-β) mounted by tumor cells. In summary, combining immunotherapeutic strategies with HP-NAP is a promising approach to combat cancers and SFV4miRT is an excellent candidate for treatment of neuroblastomas and gliomas.