Sustained IL-2R signaling of limited duration by high-dose mIL-2/mCD25 fusion protein amplifies tumor-reactive CD8+ T cells to enhance antitumor immunity

Rosmely Hernandez, Kevin H. Toomer, Janika Põder, Alicia Santos Savio, Sunnie Hsiung, Thomas R. Malek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-dose IL-2 induces cancer regression but its therapeutic use is limited due to high toxicities resulting from its broad cell targeting. In one strategy to overcome this limitation, IL-2 has been modified to selectively target the intermediate affinity IL-2R that broadly activates memory-phenotypic CD8+ T and NK cells, while minimizing Treg-associated tolerance. In this study, we modeled an alternative strategy to amplify tumor antigen-specific TCR transgenic CD8+ T cells through limited application of a long-acting IL-2 fusion protein, mIL-2/mCD25, which selectively targets the high-affinity IL-2R. Here, mice were vaccinated with a tumor antigen and high-dose mIL-2/mCD25 was applied to coincide with the induction of the high affinity IL-2R on tumor-specific T cells. A single high dose of mIL-2/mCD25, but not an equivalent amount of IL-2, amplified the frequency and function of tumor-reactive CD8+ T effector (Teff) and memory cells. These mIL-2/mCD25-dependent effects relied on distinctive requirements for TLR signals during priming of CD8+ tumor-specific T cells. The mIL-2/mCD25-amplified tumor-reactive effector and memory T cells supported long-lasting antitumor responses to B16-F10 melanoma. This regimen only transiently increased Tregs, yielding a favorable Teff–Treg ratio within the tumor microenvironment. Notably, mIL-2/mCD25 did not increase non-tumor-specific Teff or NK cells within tumors, further substantiating the specificity of mIL-2/mCD25 for tumor antigen-activated T cells. Thus, the selectivity and persistence of mIL-2/mCD25 in conjunction with a tumor vaccine supports antitumor immunity through a mechanism that is distinct from recombinant IL-2 or IL-2-based biologics that target the intermediate affinity IL-2R.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-921
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • CD8 T cell memory
  • IL-2
  • Melanoma
  • T effector cells
  • Tumor vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustained IL-2R signaling of limited duration by high-dose mIL-2/mCD25 fusion protein amplifies tumor-reactive CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells to enhance antitumor immunity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this