Oncolytic Maraba virus armed with tumor antigen boosts vaccine priming and reveals diverse therapeutic response patterns when combined with checkpoint blockade in ovarian cancer
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BACKGROUND: Cancer immunotherapies are emerging as promising treatment strategies for ovarian cancer patients that experience disease relapse following first line therapy. As such, identifying strategies to bolster anti-tumor immunity and limit immune suppression, while recognizing diverse patterns of tumor response to immunotherapy is critical to selecting treatment combinations that lead to durable therapeutic benefit. METHODS: Using a pre-clinical mouse model, we evaluated a heterologous prime/boost vaccine in combination with checkpoint blockade to treat metastatic intraperitoneal ovarian cancer. Vaccine-elicited CD8+ T cell responses and changes in the tumor microenvironment following treatment were analyzed and compared to treatment outcome. Kinetics of intraperitoneal tumor growth were assessed using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). RESULTS: Vaccine priming followed by antigen-armed oncolytic Maraba virus boosting elicited robust tumor-specific CD8+ T cell responses that improved tumor control and led to unique immunological changes in the tumor, including a signature that correlated with improved clinical outcome of ovarian cancer patients. However, this treatment was not curative and T cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME) were functionally suppressed. Combination PD-1 blockade partially overcame the adaptive resistance in the tumor observed in response to prime/boost vaccination, restoring CD8+ T cell function in the TME and enhancing the therapeutic response. Non-invasive MRI of tumors during the course of combination treatment revealed heterogeneous radiologic response patterns following treatment, including pseudo-progression, which was associated with improved tumor control prior to relapse. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings point to a key hierarchical role for PD-1 signaling and adaptive immune resistance in the ovarian TME in determining the functional fate of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells, even in the context of robust therapy mediated anti-tumor immunity, as well as the ability of multiple unique patterns of therapeutic response to result in durable tumor control.
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