The anti-tumor effects of cetuximab in combination with VTX-2337 are T cell dependent


The Toll-like receptor 8 (TLR8) agonist VTX-2337 (motolimod) is an anti-cancer immunotherapeutic agent that is believed to augment natural killer (NK) and dendritic cell (DC) activity. The goal of this work is to examine the role of TLR8 expression/activity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) to facilitate the prediction of responders to VTX-2337-based therapy. The prognostic role of TLR8 expression in HNSCC patients was assessed by TCGA and tissue microarray analyses. The anti-tumor effect of VTX-2337 was determined in SCCVII/C3H, mEERL/C57Bl/6 and TUBO-human EGFR/BALB/c syngeneic mouse models. The effect of combined VTX-2337 and cetuximab treatment on tumor growth, survival and immune cell recruitment was assessed. TLR8 expression was associated with CD8+ T cell infiltration and favorable survival outcomes. VTX-2337 delayed tumor growth in all 3 syngeneic mouse models and significantly increased the survival of cetuximab-treated mice. The anti-tumor effects of VTX-2337+ cetuximab were accompanied by increased splenic lymphoid DCs and IFNγ+ CD4+ and tumor-specific CD8+ T cells. Depletion of CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells and NK cells were all able to abolish the anti-tumor effect of VTX-2337+ cetuximab. Altogether, VTX-2337 remains promising as an adjuvant for cetuximab-based therapy however patients with high TLR8 expression may be more likely to derive benefit from this drug combination compared to patients with low TLR8 expression.

In Scientific Reports
Nick Borcherding
Nick Borcherding
Assistant Professor

My research includes systems immunology, single-cell sequencing technology, and computational frameworks.