Am J Transplant. 2020 Aug 17. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16275. Online ahead of print.
Boosting T-cell immune response posttransplant with checkpoint-inhibitors increases graft-versus-lymphoma (GVL) effects at the cost of increasing acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). A combined targeted therapy is needed to decrease checkpoint inhibitors-induced aGVHD without impairing GVL. We studied whether this competition could be avoided by giving concurrent anti-PD-1 antibody and ruxolitinib in allotransplant mouse models in which recipients were challenged with A20 or EL4 lymphoma
cells. Given alone the PD-1 antibody increased GVL but did not improve survival of recipients challenged with A20 cells because of increased deaths from aGVHD. Adding ruxolitinib decreased levels of effector T cells and related cytokines. Tbx21- T cells had higher PD-1 levels compared with Tbx21+ T cells. Ruxolitinib increased PD-1 levels on donor T cells by suppressing Tbx21 expression. Ruxolitinib increased apoptosis of T cells which was reversed by the PD-1 antibody. PD-1 antibody preserved expression of granzyme B and cytotoxicity of T cells which were decreased by ruxolitinib. The net result of combined therapy was increased GVL, no increase in aGVHD and increased survival. The combined therapy improved survival of recipients challenged by A20 cells which expressed high level of PD-L1, but not EL4 cells which do not express PD-L1.