Targeting 4-1BB costimulation to the tumor stroma with bispecific aptamer conjugates enhances the therapeutic index of tumor immunotherapy

Brett Schrand, Alexey Berezhnoy, Randall Brenneman, Anthony Williams, Agata Levay, Ling Yuan Kong, Ganesh Rao, Shouhao Zhou, Amy B. Heimberger, Eli Gilboa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Despite the recent successes of using immune modulatory Abs in patients with cancer, autoimmune pathologies resulting from the activation of self-reactive T cells preclude the dose escalations necessary to fully exploit their therapeutic potential. To reduce the observed and expected toxicities associated with immune modulation, here we describe a clinically feasible and broadly applicable approach to limit immune costimulation to the disseminated tumor lesions of the patient, whereby an agonistic 4-1BB oligonucleotide aptamer is targeted to the tumor stroma by conjugation to an aptamer that binds to a broadly expressed stromal product, VEGF. This approach was predicated on the premise that by targeting the costimulatory ligands to products secreted into the tumor stroma, the T cells will be costimulated before their engagement of the MHC-peptide complex on the tumor cell, thereby obviating the need to target the costimulatory ligands to noninternalizing cell surface products expressed on the tumor cells. Underscoring the potency of stroma-targeted costimulation and the broad spectrum of tumors secreting VEGF, in preclinical murine tumor models, systemic administration of the VEGF-targeted 4-1BB aptamer conjugates engendered potent antitumor immunity against multiple unrelated tumors in subcutaneous, postsurgical lung metastasis, methylcholantrene-induced fibrosarcoma, and oncogene-induced autochthonous glioma models, and exhibited a superior therapeutic index compared with nontargeted administration of an agonistic 4-1BB Ab or 4-1BB aptamer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-877
Number of pages11
JournalCancer immunology research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


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