Research Papers:

Implication of combined PD-L1/PD-1 blockade with cytokine-induced killer cells as a synergistic immunotherapy for gastrointestinal cancer

Congqi Dai _, Fengjuan Lin, Ruixuan Geng, Xiaoxiao Ge, Wenbo Tang, Jinjia Chang, Zheng Wu, Xinyang Liu, Ying Lin, Zhe Zhang and Jin Li

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:10332-10344. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7243

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Congqi Dai1,*, Fengjuan Lin1,*, Ruixuan Geng1, Xiaoxiao Ge1, Wenbo Tang1, Jinjia Chang1, Zheng Wu1, Xinyang Liu1, Ying Lin1, Zhe Zhang1, Jin Li1,2

1Department of Medical Oncology, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center; Department of Oncology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

2Department of Oncology, Tongji University Tianyou Hospital, Shanghai, China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Jin Li, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: PD-L1/PD-1, CIK, NKG2D, immunotherapy, gastrointestinal tumor

Received: October 21, 2015    Accepted: January 24, 2016    Published: February 08, 2016


Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells represent a realistic approach in cancer immunotherapy with confirmed survival benefits in the context of metastatic solid tumors. However, therapeutic effects are limited to a fraction of patients. In this study, immune-resistance elements and ideal combination therapies were explored. Initially, phenotypic analysis was performed to document CD3, CD56, NKG2D, DNAM-1, PD-L1, PD-1, CTLA-4, TIM-3, 2B4, and LAG-3 on CIK cells. Upon engagement of CIK cells with the tumor cells, expression of PD-1 on CIK cells and PD-L1 on both cells were up-regulated. Over-expression of PD-L1 levels on tumor cells via lentiviral transduction inhibited tumoricidal activity of CIK cells, and neutralizing of PD-L1/PD-1 signaling axis could enhance their tumor-killing effect. Conversely, blockade of NKG2D, a major activating receptor of CIK cells, largely caused dysfunction of CIK cells. Functional study showed an increase of NKG2D levels along with PD-L1/PD-1 blockade in the presence of other immune effector molecule secretion. Additionally, combined therapy of CIK infusion and PD-L1/PD-1 blockade caused a delay of in vivo tumor growth and exhibited a survival advantage over untreated mice. These results provide a preclinical proof-of-concept for simultaneous PD-L1/PD-1 pathways blockade along with CIK infusion as a novel immunotherapy for unresectable cancers.

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