Research ArticleCancer

Intravenous delivery of oncolytic reovirus to brain tumor patients immunologically primes for subsequent checkpoint blockade

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Science Translational Medicine  03 Jan 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 422, eaam7577
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aam7577

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Viruses team up with cancer immunotherapy

Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great promise for cancer therapy, but they do not treat all cancers, and neither breast nor brain tumors are usually treatable with these drugs. However, Bourgeois-Daigneault et al. discovered a way to address this for breast cancer, and Samson et al. discovered a way to address this for brain tumors. In both cases, the authors found that oncolytic virus treatment given early, before surgical resection, alters the antitumor immune response and potentiates the effects of subsequent treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Although these studies differ in the details of their methods and the immune effects induced by the oncolytic viruses, they indicate the potential of such viruses for enhancing the potential of checkpoint therapy and expanding it to new types of cancer.


Immune checkpoint inhibitors, including those targeting programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), are reshaping cancer therapeutic strategies. Evidence suggests, however, that tumor response and patient survival are determined by tumor programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression. We hypothesized that preconditioning of the tumor immune microenvironment using targeted, virus-mediated interferon (IFN) stimulation would up-regulate tumor PD-L1 protein expression and increase cytotoxic T cell infiltration, improving the efficacy of subsequent checkpoint blockade. Oncolytic viruses (OVs) represent a promising form of cancer immunotherapy. For brain tumors, almost all studies to date have used direct intralesional injection of OV, because of the largely untested belief that intravenous administration will not deliver virus to this site. We show, in a window-of-opportunity clinical study, that intravenous infusion of oncolytic human Orthoreovirus (referred to herein as reovirus) leads to infection of tumor cells subsequently resected as part of standard clinical care, both in high-grade glioma and in brain metastases, and increases cytotoxic T cell tumor infiltration relative to patients not treated with virus. We further show that reovirus up-regulates IFN-regulated gene expression, as well as the PD-1/PD-L1 axis in tumors, via an IFN-mediated mechanism. Finally, we show that addition of PD-1 blockade to reovirus enhances systemic therapy in a preclinical glioma model. These results support the development of combined systemic immunovirotherapy strategies for the treatment of both primary and secondary tumors in the brain.

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