Collagen-binding IL-12 may potentiate CPI immunotherapy for immunologically cold tumours

Checkpoint-inhibitor (CPI) immunotherapy has achieved remarkable clinical success, yet its efficacy in ‘immunologically cold’ tumours has been modest. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a powerful cytokine that activates the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system; however, the administration of IL-12 has been associated with immune-related adverse events. In our latest article published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on April 13 2020, we show that, after intravenous administration of a collagen-binding domain fused to IL-12 (CBD-IL-12) in mice bearing aggressive mouse tumours, CBD-IL-12 accumulates in the tumour stroma due to exposed collagen in the disordered tumour vasculature.

In comparison with the administration of unmodified IL-12, CBD–IL-12 induced sustained intratumoural levels of interferon-γ, substantially reduced its systemic levels as well as organ damage and provided superior anticancer efficacy, eliciting complete regression of CPI unresponsive breast tumours. Furthermore, CBD–IL-12 potently synergized with CPI to eradicate large established melanomas, induced antigen-specific immunological memory and controlled tumour growth in a genetically engineered mouse model of melanoma. CBD-IL-12 may potentiate CPI immunotherapy for immunologically cold tumours.


Expression plasmids for producing recombinant IL-12 and CBD-IL-12 were constructed by GenScript

The peptides used in the restimulation assays were synthesized by GenScript and the sequences were as follows: 

gp100 (KVPRNQDWL)

Trp1 (CRPGWRGAACNQKI)

Trp2 (SVYDFFVWL)

kif18b (PSKPSFQEFVDWENVSPELNSTDQPFLP, mutation K739N)

cps3fl (EFKHIKAFDRTFANNPGPMVVFATPGML, mutation D314N). 

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