Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PLoS Medicine








BACKGROUND: Adaptive immune resistance induces an immunosuppressive tumor environment that enables immune evasion. This phenomenon results in tumor escape with progression and metastasis. Programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expressed on tumors is thought to inhibit tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) through programmed cell death 1 (PD1), enabling adaptive immune resistance. This study investigates the role of PD-L1 in both mouse and human neuroblastoma immunity. The consequence of PD-L1 inhibition is characterized in the context of an established whole tumor cell vaccine.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: A mouse model of neuroblastoma was investigated using an Id2 knockdown whole cell vaccine in combination with checkpoint inhibition. We show that immunogenic mouse neuroblastoma acquires adaptive immune resistance by up-regulating PD-L1 expression, whereas PD-L1 is of lesser consequence in nonimmunogenic neuroblastoma tumors. Combining PD-L1 checkpoint inhibition with whole tumor cell/anti-CTLA-4 vaccination enhanced tumor cell killing, cured mice with established tumors, and induced long-term immune memory (6 months). From an evaluation of patient neuroblastoma tumors, we found that the inflammatory environment of the mouse neuroblastoma mimicked human disease in which PD-L1 expression was associated directly with TILs and lower-risk tumors. High-risk patient tumors were lacking both TILs and PD-L1 expression. Although a correlation in immunity seems to exist between the mouse model and human findings, the mouse tumor model is induced and not spontaneously occurring, and furthermore, the number of both mouse and human correlates is limited.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the role PD-L1 plays in neuroblastoma's resistance to immunity and defines the nonredundant effect of combination checkpoint inhibition with vaccine therapy in a mouse model. High-risk, nonimmunogenic human tumors display both diminished PD-L1 expression and adaptive immune resistance. Paradoxically, high-risk tumors may be more responsive to effective vaccine therapy because of their apparent lack of adaptive immune resistance.


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