Key Points

  • Avadomide induces type I and II IFN signaling in T cells, triggering a feedforward cascade of reinvigorated anti-CLL immune responses

  • IFN-driven promotion of a CD8+ T cell-inflamed microenvironment by avadomide enhances anti-PD-L1/PD-1 efficacy in pre-clinical models

Cancer treatment has been transformed by checkpoint blockade therapies, with the highest anti-tumor activity of anti-programmed death 1 (PD-1) antibody therapy seen in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). Disappointingly, response rates have been low in the non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs), with no activity seen in relapsed/refractory (R/R) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with PD-1 blockade. Thus, identifying more powerful combination therapy is required for these patients. Here, we pre-clinically demonstrate enhanced anti-CLL activity following combinational therapy with anti-PD-1 or anti-PD-1 ligand (PD-L1) and avadomide, a cereblon E3 ligase modulator (CELMoD). Avadomide induced type I and II interferon (IFN) signaling in patient T cells, triggering a feedforward cascade of reinvigorated T cell responses. Immune modeling assays demonstrated that avadomide stimulated T cell activation, chemokine expression, motility and lytic synapses with CLL cells, as well as IFN-inducible feedback inhibition through upregulation of PD-L1. Patient-derived xenograft tumors treated with avadomide were converted to CD8+ T cell-inflamed tumor microenvironments (TMEs) that responded to anti-PD-L1/PD-1-based combination therapy. Notably, clinical analyses showed increased PD-L1 expression on T cells, as well as intratumoral expression of chemokine signaling genes in B cell malignancy patients receiving avadomide-based therapy. These data illustrate the importance of overcoming a low inflammatory T cell state to successfully sensitize CLL to checkpoint blockade-based combination therapy.

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