Chronic retroviral infection of mice promotes tumor development, but CD137 agonist therapy restores effective tumor immune surveillance.


Institute for Virology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Virchowstraße 179, 45147, Essen, Germany. [Email]


T cell responses are crucial for anti-tumor immunity. In chronic viral infections, anti-tumor T cell responses can be compromised due to various immunological mechanisms, including T cell exhaustion. To study mechanisms of anti-tumor immunity during a chronic viral infection, we made use of the well-established Friend virus (FV) mouse model. Chronically FV-infected mice are impaired in their ability to reject FBL-3 cells-a virus-induced tumor cell line of C57BL/6 origin. Here we aimed to explore therapeutic strategies to overcome the influence of T cell exhaustion during chronic viral infection, and reactivate effector CD8+ and CD4+ T cells to eliminate tumor cells. For T cell stimulation, agonistic antibodies against the tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily members CD137 and CD134 were used, because they were reported to augment the cytotoxic program of T cells. αCD137 agonistic therapy, but not αCD134 agonistic therapy, resulted in FBL-3 tumor elimination in chronically FV-infected mice. CD137 stimulation significantly enhanced the cytotoxic activity of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, which were both required for efficient tumor control. Our study suggests that agonistic antibodies to CD137 can efficiently enhance anti-tumor immunity even in the setting of chronic viral infection, which might have promising therapeutic applications.


Agonistic antibody,Anti-tumor immunity,Costimulatory molecule,Effector T cells,Friend retrovirus,