Anticancer vaccination is a promising approach to increase the efficacy of cytotoxic T lymphocyte–associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) checkpoint blockade therapies. However, the landmark FDA registration trial for anti–CTLA-4 therapy (ipilimumab) revealed a complete lack of benefit of adding vaccination with gp100 peptide formulated in incomplete Freund’s adjuvant (IFA). Here, using a mouse model of melanoma, we found that gp100 vaccination induced gp100-specific effector T cells (Teffs), which dominantly forced trafficking of anti–CTLA-4–induced, non-gp100–specific Teffs away from the tumor, reducing tumor control. The inflamed vaccination site subsequently also sequestered and destroyed anti–CTLA-4–induced Teffs with specificities for tumor antigens other than gp100, reducing the antitumor efficacy of anti–CTLA-4 therapy. Mechanistically, Teffs at the vaccination site recruited inflammatory monocytes, which in turn attracted additional Teffs in a vicious cycle mediated by IFN-γ, CXCR3, ICAM-1, and CCL2, dependent on IFA formulation. In contrast, nonpersistent vaccine formulations based on dendritic cells, viral vectors, or water-soluble peptides potently synergized with checkpoint blockade of both CTLA-4 and PD-L1 and induced complete tumor regression, including in settings of primary resistance to dual checkpoint blockade. We conclude that cancer vaccine formulation can dominantly determine synergy, or lack thereof, with CTLA-4 and PD-L1 checkpoint blockade therapy for cancer.
Yared Hailemichael, Amber Woods, Tihui Fu, Qiuming He, Michael C. Nielsen, Farah Hasan, Jason Roszik, Zhilan Xiao, Christina Vianden, Hiep Khong, Manisha Singh, Meenu Sharma, Faisal Faak, Derek Moore, Zhimin Dai, Scott M. Anthony, Kimberly S. Schluns, Padmanee Sharma, Victor H. Engelhard, Willem W. Overwijk