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J Clin Invest. 2006 Jul;116(7):1935-45. Epub 2006 Jun 15.

CTLA4 blockade and GM-CSF combination immunotherapy alters the intratumor balance of effector and regulatory T cells.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Immunology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA.


CTL-associated antigen 4 (CTLA4) blockade releases inhibitory controls on T cell activation and proliferation, inducing antitumor immunity in both preclinical and early clinical trials. We examined the mechanisms of action of anti-CTLA4 and a GM-CSF-transduced tumor cell vaccine (Gvax) and their impact on the balance of effector T cells (Teffs) and Tregs in an in vivo model of B16/BL6 melanoma. Tumor challenge increased the frequency of Tregs in lymph nodes, and untreated tumors became infiltrated by CD4+Foxp3- and CD4+Foxp3+ T cells but few CD8+ T cells. Anti-CTLA4 did not deplete Tregs or permanently impair their function but acted in a cell-intrinsic manner on both Tregs and Teffs, allowing them to expand, most likely in response to self antigen. While Gvax primed the tumor-reactive Teff compartment, inducing activation, tumor infiltration, and a delay in tumor growth, the combination with CTLA4 blockade induced greater infiltration and a striking change in the intratumor balance of Tregs and Teffs that directly correlated with tumor rejection. The data suggest that Tregs control both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell activity within the tumor, highlight the importance of the intratumor ratio of effectors to regulators, and demonstrate inversion of the ratio and correlation with tumor rejection during Gvax/anti-CTLA4 immunotherapy.

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