Uppendahl, L. D., et al. Cytokine-induced memory-like natural killer cells have enhanced function, proliferation, and in vivo expansion against ovarian cancer cells. Gynecol Oncol. 2019. doi:

OBJECTIVE. Natural killer (NK) cells are lymphocytes well suited for adoptive immunotherapy. Attempts with adoptive NK cell immunotherapy against ovarian cancer have proven unsuccessful, with the main limitations including failure to expand and diminished effector function. We investigated if incubation of NK cells with interleukin (IL)-12, IL-15, and IL-18 for 16 h could produce cytokine-induced memory-like (CIML) NK cells capable of enhanced function against ovarian cancer. Methods. NK cells were preactivated briefly with IL-12, IL-15, and IL-18, rested, then placed against ovarian cancer targets to assess phenotype and function via flow cytometry. Real-time NK-cell-mediated tumor-killing was evaluated. Using ascites cells and cell-free ascites fluid, NK cell proliferation and function within the immunosuppressive microenvironment was evaluated in vitro. Finally, CIML NK cells were injected intraperitoneal (IP) into an in vivo xenogeneic mouse model of ovarian cancer. Results. CIML NK cells demonstrate enhanced cytokine (IFN-γ) production and NK-cell-mediated killing of ovarian cancer. NK cells treated overnight with cytokines led to robust activation characterized by temporal shedding of CD16, induction of CD25, and enhanced proliferation. CIML NK cells proliferate more with enhanced effector function compared to controls in an immunosuppressive microenvironment. Finally, human CIML NK cells exhibited potent antitumor effects within a xenogeneic mouse model of ovarian cancer. Conclusions. CIML NK cells have enhanced functionality and persistence against ovarian cancer in vitro and in vivo, even when exposed to ascites fluid. These findings provide a strategy for NK cell-based immunotherapy to circumvent the immunosuppressive nature of ovarian cancer.

Furuya H., et al. (2019). Effectiveness of two different dose administration regimens of an IL-15 superagonist complex (ALT-803) in an orthotopic bladder cancer mouse model. J Transl Med. 17(1):29. doi:10.1186/s12967-019-1778-6

BACKGROUND. We set out to determine if the administration of subcutaneous (SQ) ALT-803 was non-inferior to standard intravesical BCG treatment in a carcinogen induced mouse (C57BL/6J) bladder cancer model. Methods. Using this well-established carcinogen induced mouse model, we studied the effects of various dosing schemas of ALT-803 (SQ alone, SQ with intravesical BCG, intravesical alone, intravesical with intravesical BCG) compared to intravesical BCG alone (positive control) and PBS (negative control). The non-inferiority margin for the difference in bladder weight, as a surrogate for tumor mass, was defined as 7%. Results. All treatment groups (i.e., ALT-803 SQ alone, ALT-803 SQ with intravesical BCG, ALT-803 intravesical alone, ALT-803 intravesical with intravesical BCG and intravesical BCG alone) demonstrated a significant reduction in tumor burden as evident by bladder weights and H&E stain (p < 0.005). Non-inferiority tests between the intravesical BCG alone group and the additional treatment groups showed that SQ ALT-803 alone (p = 0.04) and BCG plus SQ ALT-803 (p = 0.009) were non-inferior to intravesical BCG alone. In this model, we did not see an appreciable infiltration of CD4+ T, CD8+ T or CD161/KLRB1+ natural killer (NK) cells in the bladder/tumor. When assessing peripheral blood mononuclear cells, SQ ALT-803 alone resulted in a robust induction of CD8+ T cells (p < 0.01), NKG2D+ NK cells (p < 0.005) and CD3+/NKG2D+ NKT cells (p < 0.005) compared to other groups, while in splenic tissue, SQ ALT-803 alone resulted in a robust induction of CD3+/NKG2D+ NKT cells (p < 0.005) compared to other groups. Conclusion. Subcutaneous ALT-803 treatment alone or in combination with intravesical BCG was well tolerated and was not inferior to intravesical BCG alone. CD8+ T, NKG2D+ NK and CD3+/NKG2D+ NKT cell induction along with induction of key cytokines remain steadfast mechanisms behind ALT-803. The enhanced therapeutic index seen with BCG and ALT-803, administered SQ or intravesically, provides a powerful justification for the further development of these regimens.

Fantini, M., et al. (2019). "An IL-15 Superagonist, ALT-803, Enhances Antibody-Dependent Cell-Mediated Cytotoxicity Elicited by the Monoclonal Antibody NEO-201 Against Human Carcinoma Cells." Cancer Biother Radiopharm.

BACKGROUND: A major mechanism of action for therapeutic antibodies is antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). ALT-803 is an interleukin-15 superagonist complex that enhances ADCC against human carcinoma cells in vitro and exerts an antitumor activity in murine, rat, and human carcinomas in vivo. The authors investigated the ability of ALT-803 to modulate ADCC mediated by the humanized IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) NEO-201 against human carcinoma cells. MATERIALS AND METHODS: ALT-803 modulating activity on ADCC mediated by NEO-201 was evaluated on several NEO-201 ligand-expressing human carcinoma cells. Purified human natural killer (NK) cells from multiple healthy donors were treated with ALT-803 before their use as effectors in ADCC assay. Modulation of NK cell phenotype and cytotoxic function by exposure to ALT-803 was evaluated by flow cytometry and gene expression analysis. RESULTS: ALT-803 significantly enhanced ADCC mediated by NEO-201. ALT-803 also upregulated NK activating receptors, antiapoptotic factors, and factors involved in the NK cytotoxicity, as well as downregulated gene expression of NK inhibiting receptors. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that ALT-803 can enhance ADCC activity mediated by NEO-201, by modulating NK activation and cytotoxicity, suggesting a possible clinical use of ALT-803 in combination with NEO-201 for the treatment of human carcinomas.

Wrangle, J. M., et al. (2018). "ALT-803, an IL-15 superagonist, in combination with nivolumab in patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: a non-randomised, open-label, phase 1b trial." Lancet Oncol 19(5): 694-704.

BACKGROUND: Immunotherapy with PD-1 or PD-L1 blockade fails to induce a response in about 80% of patients with unselected non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and many of those who do initially respond then develop resistance to treatment. Agonists that target the shared interleukin-2 (IL-2) and IL-15Rbetagamma pathway have induced complete and durable responses in some cancers, but no studies have been done to assess the safety or efficacy of these agonists in combination with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. We aimed to define the safety, tolerability, and activity of this drug combination in patients with NSCLC. METHODS: In this non-randomised, open-label, phase 1b trial, we enrolled patients (aged >/=18 years) with previously treated histologically or cytologically confirmed stage IIIB or IV NSCLC from three academic hospitals in the USA. Key eligibility criteria included measurable disease, eligibility to receive anti-PD-1 immunotherapy, and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1. Patients received the anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody nivolumab intravenously at 3 mg/kg (then 240 mg when US Food and Drug Administration [FDA]-approved dosing changed) every 14 days (either as new treatment or continued treatment at the time of disease progression) and the IL-15 superagonist ALT-803 subcutaneously once per week on weeks 1-5 of four 6-week cycles for 6 months. ALT-803 was administered at one of four escalating dose concentrations: 6, 10, 15, or 20 mug/kg. The primary endpoint was to define safety and tolerability and to establish a recommended phase 2 dose of ALT-803 in combination with nivolumab. Analyses were per-protocol and included any patients who received at least one dose of study treatment. This trial is registered with, number NCT02523469; phase 2 enrolment of patients is ongoing. FINDINGS: Between Jan 18, 2016, and June 28, 2017, 23 patients were enrolled and 21 were treated at four dose levels of ALT-803 in combination with nivolumab. Two patients did not receive treatment because of the development of inter-current illness during enrolment, one patient due to leucopenia and one patient due to pulmonary dysfunction. No dose-limiting toxicities were recorded and the maximum tolerated dose was not reached. The most common adverse events were injection-site reactions (in 19 [90%] of 21 patients) and flu-like symptoms (15 [71%]). The most common grade 3 adverse events, occurring in two patients each, were lymphocytopenia and fatigue. A grade 3 myocardial infarction occurred in one patient. No grade 4 or 5 adverse events were recorded. The recommended phase 2 dose of ALT-803 is 20 mug/kg given once per week subcutaneously in combination with 240 mg intravenous nivolumab every 2 weeks. INTERPRETATION: ALT-803 in combination with nivolumab can be safely administered in an outpatient setting. The promising clinical activity observed with the addition of ALT-803 to the regimen of patients with PD-1 monoclonal antibody relapsed and refractory disease shows evidence of anti-tumour activity for a new class of agents in NSCLC. FUNDING: Altor BioScience (a NantWorks company), National Institutes of Health, and Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center.

Webb, G. M., et al. (2018). "The human IL-15 superagonist ALT-803 directs SIV-specific CD8(+) T cells into B-cell follicles." Blood Adv 2(2): 76-84.

Sequestering of latent HIV in follicular helper T cells within B-cell follicles that largely exclude cytotoxic T cells is a major barrier to cellular immune-based approaches to eradicate HIV. Here, we show that the clinical-grade human interleukin-15 (IL-15) superagonist ALT-803 activates and redirects simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-specific CD8(+) T cells from the peripheral blood into B-cell follicles. In agreement with the increased trafficking of SIV-specific cytotoxic T cells to sites of cryptic viral replication, lymph nodes of elite controlling macaques contained fewer cells expressing SIV RNA or harboring SIV DNA post-ALT-803 treatment. These data establish ALT-803 as an immunotherapeutic for HIV and other chronic viral pathogens that evade host immunity by persisting in B-cell follicles.

Venkateshaiah, S. U., et al. (2018). "Regulatory effects of IL-15 on allergen-induced airway obstruction." J Allergy Clin Immunol 141(3): 906-917 e906.

BACKGROUND: Airway obstruction is a physiologic feature of asthma, and IL-15 might have an important role in asthma pathogenesis. OBJECTIVE: We tested the hypothesis that regulation of IL-15 is critical for preservation of allergen-induced airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), airway resistance, and compliance in response to methacholine. METHODS: Airway inflammation, AHR, resistance, and compliance were assessed in Il15 gene-deficient mice and IL-15-overexpressing mice in an allergen-induced murine model of asthma. We assessed eosinophil numbers by using anti-major basic protein immunostaining, goblet cell hyperplasia by using periodic acid-Schiff staining, and cytokine and chemokine levels by performing quantitative PCR and ELISA. RESULTS: We made a novel observation that IL-15 deficiency promotes baseline airway resistance in naive mice. Moreover, rIL-15 delivery to the lung downregulates expression of proinflammatory cytokines and improves allergen-induced AHR, airway resistance, and compliance. These observations were further validated in doxycycline-inducible CC10-IL-15 bitransgenic mice. Doxycycline-exposed, Aspergillus species extract-challenged CC10-IL-15 bitransgenic mice exhibited significantly reduced levels of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13) and decreased goblet cell hyperplasia. Airway obstruction, including AHR and airway resistance, was diminished in allergen-challenged doxycycline-exposed compared with non-doxycycline-exposed CC10-IL-15 bitransgenic mice. Mechanistically, we observed that IL-15-mediated protection of airway obstruction is associated with induced IFN-gamma- and IL-10-producing regulatory CD4(+)CD25(+) forkhead box p3 (Foxp3)(+) T cells. Additionally, we found that a human IL-15 agonist (ALT-803) improved airway resistance and compliance in an experimental asthma model. CONCLUSION: We report our novel finding that IL-15 has a potent inhibitory effect on the airway obstruction that occurs in response to environmental allergens.

Romee, R., et al. (2018). "First-in-human phase 1 clinical study of the IL-15 superagonist complex ALT-803 to treat relapse after transplantation." Blood 131(23): 2515-2527.

New therapies for patients with hematologic malignancies who relapse after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) are needed. Interleukin 15 (IL-15) is a cytokine that stimulates CD8(+) T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell antitumor responses, and we hypothesized this cytokine may augment antileukemia/antilymphoma immunity in vivo. To test this, we performed a first-in-human multicenter phase 1 trial of the IL-15 superagonist complex ALT-803 in patients who relapsed >60 days after allo-HCT. ALT-803 was administered to 33 patients via the IV or subcutaneous (SQ) routes once weekly for 4 doses (dose levels of 1, 3, 6, and 10 mug/kg). ALT-803 was well tolerated, and no dose-limiting toxicities or treatment-emergent graft-versus-host disease requiring systemic therapy was observed in this clinical setting. Adverse events following IV administration included constitutional symptoms temporally related to increased serum IL-6 and interferon-gamma. To mitigate these effects, the SQ route was tested. SQ delivery resulted in self-limited injection site rashes infiltrated with lymphocytes without acute constitutional symptoms. Pharmacokinetic analysis revealed prolonged (>96 hour) serum concentrations following SQ, but not IV, injection. ALT-803 stimulated the activation, proliferation, and expansion of NK cells and CD8(+) T cells without increasing regulatory T cells. Responses were observed in 19% of evaluable patients, including 1 complete remission lasting 7 months. Thus, ALT-803 is a safe, well-tolerated agent that significantly increased NK and CD8(+) T cell numbers and function. This immunostimulatory IL-15 superagonist warrants further investigation to augment antitumor immunity alone and combined with other immunotherapies. This trial was registered at as #NCT01885897.

Redman, J. M., et al. (2018). "Quick efficacy seeking trial (QuEST1): a novel combination immunotherapy study designed for rapid clinical signal assessment metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer." J Immunother Cancer 6(1): 91.

Advances in immunotherapy utilizing immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have transformed the treatment landscapes of several malignancies in recent years. Oncologists are now tasked with extending these benefits to a greater number of patients and tumor types. Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) infrequently responds to ICIs, while the cellular vaccine approved for mCRPC, sipuleucel-T, provides a 4-month survival benefit but does not produce clinical responses as monotherapy. However, many novel and generally well-tolerated immune oncology agents with potential for immune synergy and/or additive effects are undergoing clinical development. This availability presents opportunities to develop adaptive-design combination clinical trials aimed to generate, expand, and facilitate antitumor immune responses. Here we describe a currently accruing phase I/II trial (NCT03493945) testing a brachyury-targeted antitumor vaccine, TGF-beta TRAP/anti-PD-L1 antibody, an IL-15 agonist, and an IDO1 inhibitor in mCRPC. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial ( NCT03493945 ) was registered in National Clinical Trials on April 11th 2018.

Margolin, K., et al. (2018). "Phase I Trial of ALT-803, A Novel Recombinant IL15 Complex, in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors." Clin Cancer Res 24(22): 5552-5561.

Purpose: IL15 induces the activation and proliferation of natural killer (NK) and memory CD8(+) T cells and has preclinical antitumor activity. Given the superior activity and favorable kinetics of ALT-803 (IL15N72D:IL15RalphaSu/IgG1 Fc complex) over recombinant human IL15 (rhIL15) in animal models, we performed this first-in-human phase I trial of ALT-803 in patients with advanced solid tumors.Patients and Methods: Patients with incurable advanced melanoma, renal cell, non-small cell lung, and head and neck cancer were treated with ALT-803 0.3 to 6 mug/kg weekly intravenously or 6 to 20 mug/kg weekly subcutaneously for 4 consecutive weeks, every 6 weeks. Immune correlates included pharmacokinetics, immunogenicity, and lymphocyte expansion and function. Clinical endpoints were toxicity and antitumor activity.Results: Twenty-four patients were enrolled; 11 received intravenous and 13 received subcutaneous ALT-803. Of these patients, nine had melanoma, six renal, three head and neck, and six lung cancer. Although total lymphocyte and CD8(+) T-cell expansion were modest, NK cell numbers rose significantly. Neither anti-ALT-803 antibodies nor clinical activity were observed. Overall, ALT-803 was well tolerated, with adverse effects including fatigue and nausea most commonly with intravenous administration, whereas painful injection site wheal was reported most commonly with subcutaneous ALT-803.Conclusions: Subcutaneous ALT-803 produced the expected NK cell expansion and was well tolerated with minimal cytokine toxicities and a strong local inflammatory reaction at injection sites in patients with advanced cancer. These data, together with compelling evidence of synergy in preclinical and clinical studies, provide the rationale for combining ALT-803 with other anticancer agents. Clin Cancer Res; 24(22); 5552-61. (c)2018 AACR.

Liu, B., et al. (2018). "Evaluation of the biological activities of the IL-15 superagonist complex, ALT-803, following intravenous versus subcutaneous administration in murine models." Cytokine 107: 105-112.

ALT-803 is a fusion protein complex consisting of an interleukin (IL)-15 superagonist and a dimeric IL-15 receptor alpha sushi domain IgG1 Fc fusion protein. When administered to mice, ALT-803 is capable of inducing natural killer (NK) and CD8(+) T cell proliferation and activation, and effectively promoting potent anti-tumor responses. Currently, ALT-803 is in clinical trials for treatment of various solid tumors and hematological malignancies. In the initial phase of these clinical studies, intravenous (iv) injection was used according to the route used in pre-clinical efficacy studies. In order to evaluate the possible advantage of subcutaneous (sc) injection versus iv injection, this study compared the biological activity of the two treatment regimens of ALT-803 in pre-clinical in vivo models. The pharmacokinetics, immune stimulation, and anti-tumor efficacy of iv and sc injection routes of ALT-803 in C57BL/6 mice were compared. The half-life of ALT-803 was 7.5h for iv versus 7.7h for sc with the maximal detected serum concentration of ALT-803 to be 3926ng/ml at 0.5 h time-point following iv injection versus 495ng/ml at 16h post sc injection. Biodistribution studies indicated that sc ALT-803, similarly to iv ALT-803 as previously reported, has a greater tissue distribution and longer residence time in lymphoid tissues compared to recombinant IL-15. Notably, ALT-803 when administered either iv or sc induced comparable proliferation and activation of CD8(+) T and NK cells and resulted in similar reductions of tumor burden. A toxicity study of mice receiving multiple injections of ALT-803 for 4weeks by iv or sc routes revealed equivalent immune-related changes. The gradual absorbance into the blood stream and lower maximal blood levels of ALT-803 in sc-injected mice, along with similar anti-tumor efficacy support the administration of ALT-803 by sc injection in patients with various malignancies and infectious diseases.

Hoogstad-van Evert, J. S., et al. (2018). "Peritoneal NK cells are responsive to IL-15 and percentages are correlated with outcome in advanced ovarian cancer patients." Oncotarget 9(78): 34810-34820.

The demonstration that ovarian carcinoma (OC) is an immunogenic disease, opens opportunities to explore immunotherapeutic interventions to improve clinical outcome. In this regard, NK cell based immunotherapy could be promising as it has been demonstrated that OC cells are susceptible to killing by cytokine-stimulated NK cells. Here, we evaluated whether percentage, phenotype, function and IL-15 responsiveness of ascites-derived natural killer (NK) cells is related to progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) of advanced stage OC patients. Generally, a lower percentage of NK cells within the lymphocyte fraction was seen in OC ascites (mean 17.4 +/- 2.7%) versus benign peritoneal fluids (48.1 +/- 6.8%; p < 0.0001). Importantly, a higher CD56+ NK cell percentage in ascites was associated with a better PFS (p = 0.01) and OS (p = 0.002) in OC patients. Furthermore, the functionality of ascites-derived NK cells in terms of CD107a/IFN-gamma activity was comparable to that of healthy donor peripheral blood NK cells, and stimulation with monomeric IL-15 or IL-15 superagonist ALT-803 potently improved their reactivity towards tumor cells. By showing that a higher NK cell percentage is related to better outcome in OC patients and NK cell functionality can be boosted by IL-15 receptor stimulation, a part of NK cell immunity in OC is further deciphered to exploit NK cell based immunotherapy.

Fujii, R., et al. (2018). "An IL-15 superagonist/IL-15Ralpha fusion complex protects and rescues NK cell-cytotoxic function from TGF-beta1-mediated immunosuppression." Cancer Immunol Immunother 67(4): 675-689.

Natural killer (NK) cells are innate cytotoxic lymphocytes that play a fundamental role in the immunosurveillance of cancers. NK cells of cancer patients exhibit impaired function mediated by immunosuppressive factors released from the tumor microenvironment (TME), such as transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1. An interleukin (IL)-15 superagonist/IL-15 receptor alpha fusion complex (IL-15SA/IL-15RA; ALT-803) activates the IL-15 receptor on CD8 T cells and NK cells, and has shown significant anti-tumor activity in several in vivo studies. This in vitro study investigated the efficacy of IL-15SA/IL-15RA on TGF-beta1-induced suppression of NK cell-cytotoxic function. IL-15SA/IL-15RA inhibited TGF-beta1 from decreasing NK cell lysis of four of four tumor cell lines (H460, LNCap, MCF7, MDA-MB-231). IL-15SA/IL-15RA rescued healthy donor and cancer patient NK cell-cytotoxicity, which had previously been suppressed by culture with TGF-beta1. TGF-beta1 downregulated expression of NK cell-activating markers and cytotoxic granules, such as CD226, NKG2D, NKp30, granzyme B, and perforin. Smad2/3 signaling was responsible for this TGF-beta1-induced downregulation of NK cell-activating markers and cytotoxic granules. IL-15SA/IL-15RA blocked Smad2/3-induced transcription, resulting in the rescue of NK cell-cytotoxic function from TGF-beta1-induced suppression. These findings suggest that in addition to increasing NK cell function via promoting the IL-15 signaling pathway, IL-15SA/IL-15RA can function as an inhibitor of TGF-beta1 signaling, providing a potential remedy for NK cell dysfunction in the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

Ellis-Connell, A. L., et al. (2018). "ALT-803 Transiently Reduces Simian Immunodeficiency Virus Replication in the Absence of Antiretroviral Treatment." J Virol 92(3).

Developing biological interventions to control human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) could contribute to the development of a functional cure. As a potential alternative to ART, the interleukin-15 (IL-15) superagonist ALT-803 has been shown to boost the number and function of HIV-specific CD8(+) T and NK cell populations in vitro Four simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-positive rhesus macaques, three of whom possessed major histocompatibility complex alleles associated with control of SIV and all of whom had received SIV vaccine vectors that had the potential to elicit CD8(+) T cell responses, were given ALT-803 in three treatment cycles. The first and second cycles of treatment were separated by 2 weeks, while the third cycle was administered after a 29-week break. ALT-803 transiently elevated the total CD8(+) effector and central memory T cell and NK cell populations in peripheral blood, while viral loads transiently decreased by approximately 2 logs in all animals. Virus suppression was not sustained as T cells became less responsive to ALT-803 and waned in numbers. No effect on viral loads was observed in the second cycle of ALT-803, concurrent with downregulation of the IL-2/15 common gammaC and beta chain receptors on both CD8(+) T cells and NK cells. Furthermore, populations of immunosuppressive T cells increased during the second cycle of ALT-803 treatment. During the third treatment cycle, responsiveness to ALT-803 was restored. CD8(+) T cells and NK cells increased again 3- to 5-fold, and viral loads transiently decreased again by 1 to 2 logs.IMPORTANCE Overall, our data show that ALT-803 has the potential to be used as an immunomodulatory agent to elicit effective immune control of HIV/SIV replication. We identify mechanisms to explain why virus control is transient, so that this model can be used to define a clinically appropriate treatment regimen.

Chamie, K. et al. (2018). “Early Phase 2 Clinical Results of IL-15RαFc Superagonist N-803 With Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) in BCG-Unresponsive Non-Muscle-Invasive Bladder Cancer (NMIBC) Patients Demonstrating 86% CR of Carcinoma In Situ (CIS).” SITC 2018.
Cany, J., et al. (2018). "Decitabine enhances targeting of AML cells by CD34(+) progenitor-derived NK cells in NOD/SCID/IL2Rg(null) mice." Blood 131(2): 202-214.

Combining natural killer (NK) cell adoptive transfer with hypomethylating agents (HMAs) is an attractive therapeutic approach for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, data regarding the impact of HMAs on NK cell functionality are mostly derived from in vitro studies with high nonclinical relevant drug concentrations. In the present study, we report a comparative study of azacitidine (AZA) and decitabine (DAC) in combination with allogeneic NK cells generated from CD34(+) hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC-NK cells) in in vitro and in vivo AML models. In vitro, low-dose HMAs did not impair viability of HSPC-NK cells. Furthermore, low-dose DAC preserved HSPC-NK killing, proliferation, and interferon gamma production capacity, whereas AZA diminished their proliferation and reactivity. Importantly, we showed HMAs and HSPC-NK cells could potently work together to target AML cell lines and patient AML blasts. In vivo, both agents exerted a significant delay in AML progression in NOD/SCID/IL2Rg(null) mice, but the persistence of adoptively transferred HSPC-NK cells was not affected. Infused NK cells showed sustained expression of most activating receptors, upregulated NKp44 expression, and remarkable killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor acquisition. Most importantly, only DAC potentiated HSPC-NK cell anti-leukemic activity in vivo. Besides upregulation of NKG2D- and DNAM-1-activating ligands on AML cells, DAC enhanced messenger RNA expression of inflammatory cytokines, perforin, and TRAIL by HSPC-NK cells. In addition, treatment resulted in increased numbers of HSPC-NK cells in the bone marrow compartment, suggesting that DAC could positively modulate NK cell activity, trafficking, and tumor targeting. These data provide a rationale to explore combination therapy of adoptive HSPC-NK cells and DAC in patients with AML.

Burrack, K. S., et al. (2018). "Interleukin-15 Complex Treatment Protects Mice from Cerebral Malaria by Inducing Interleukin-10-Producing Natural Killer Cells." Immunity 48(4): 760-772 e764.

Cerebral malaria is a deadly complication of Plasmodium infection and involves blood brain barrier (BBB) disruption following infiltration of white blood cells. During experimental cerebral malaria (ECM), mice inoculated with Plasmodium berghei ANKA-infected red blood cells develop a fatal CM-like disease caused by CD8(+) T cell-mediated pathology. We found that treatment with interleukin-15 complex (IL-15C) prevented ECM, whereas IL-2C treatment had no effect. IL-15C-expanded natural killer (NK) cells were necessary and sufficient for protection against ECM. IL-15C treatment also decreased CD8(+) T cell activation in the brain and prevented BBB breakdown without influencing parasite load. IL-15C induced NK cells to express IL-10, which was required for IL-15C-mediated protection against ECM. Finally, we show that ALT-803, a modified human IL-15C, mediates similar induction of IL-10 in NK cells and protection against ECM. These data identify a regulatory role for cytokine-stimulated NK cells in the prevention of a pathogenic immune response.

Wagner, J. A., et al. (2017). "CD56bright NK cells exhibit potent antitumor responses following IL-15 priming." J Clin Invest 127(11): 4042-4058.

NK cells, lymphocytes of the innate immune system, are important for defense against infectious pathogens and cancer. Classically, the CD56dim NK cell subset is thought to mediate antitumor responses, whereas the CD56bright subset is involved in immunomodulation. Here, we challenge this paradigm by demonstrating that brief priming with IL-15 markedly enhanced the antitumor response of CD56bright NK cells. Priming improved multiple CD56bright cell functions: degranulation, cytotoxicity, and cytokine production. Primed CD56bright cells from leukemia patients demonstrated enhanced responses to autologous blasts in vitro, and primed CD56bright cells controlled leukemia cells in vivo in a murine xenograft model. Primed CD56bright cells from multiple myeloma (MM) patients displayed superior responses to autologous myeloma targets, and furthermore, CD56bright NK cells from MM patients primed with the IL-15 receptor agonist ALT-803 in vivo displayed enhanced ex vivo functional responses to MM targets. Effector mechanisms contributing to IL-15-based priming included improved cytotoxic protein expression, target cell conjugation, and LFA-1-, CD2-, and NKG2D-dependent activation of NK cells. Finally, IL-15 robustly stimulated the PI3K/Akt/mTOR and MEK/ERK pathways in CD56bright compared with CD56dim NK cells, and blockade of these pathways attenuated antitumor responses. These findings identify CD56bright NK cells as potent antitumor effectors that warrant further investigation as a cancer immunotherapy.

Robinson, T. O. and K. S. Schluns (2017). "The potential and promise of IL-15 in immuno-oncogenic therapies." Immunol Lett 190: 159-168.

This review provides an in-depth description of the preclinical and clinical studies demonstrating the effectiveness and limitations of IL-15 and IL-15 analogs given as an exogenous immuno-oncology agent. IL-15 is a cytokine that primarily stimulates the proliferation and cytotoxic functions of CD8T cells and NK cells leading to enhanced anti-tumor responses. While initially showing promise as a cancer therapeutic, the efficacy of IL-15 was limited by its short in vivo half-life. More recently, various approaches have been developed to improve the in vivo half-life and efficacy of IL-15, largely by generating IL-15/IL-15Ralpha conjugates. These new IL-15 based agents renew the prospect of IL-15 as a cancer immunotherapeutic agent. While having some efficacy in inducing tumor regression as a monotherapy, IL-15 agents also show great potential in being used in combination with other immuno-oncological therapies. Indeed, IL-15 used in combination therapy yields even better anti-tumor responses and prolongs survival than IL-15 treatment alone in numerous murine cancer models. The promising results from these preclinical studies have led to the implementation of several clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of IL-15-based agents as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with other therapies to treat both advanced solid tumors and hematological malignancies.

Mah, A. Y., et al. (2017). "Glycolytic requirement for NK cell cytotoxicity and cytomegalovirus control." JCI Insight 2(23).

NK cell activation has been shown to be metabolically regulated in vitro; however, the role of metabolism during in vivo NK cell responses to infection is unknown. We examined the role of glycolysis in NK cell function during murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection and the ability of IL-15 to prime NK cells during CMV infection. The glucose metabolism inhibitor 2-deoxy–glucose (2DG) impaired both mouse and human NK cell cytotoxicity following priming in vitro. Similarly, MCMV-infected mice treated with 2DG had impaired clearance of NK-specific targets in vivo, which was associated with higher viral burden and susceptibility to infection on the C57BL/6 background. IL-15 priming is known to alter NK cell metabolism and metabolic requirements for activation. Treatment with the IL-15 superagonist ALT-803 rescued mice from otherwise lethal infection in an NK-dependent manner. Consistent with this, treatment of a patient with ALT-803 for recurrent CMV reactivation after hematopoietic cell transplant was associated with clearance of viremia. These studies demonstrate that NK cell-mediated control of viral infection requires glucose metabolism and that IL-15 treatment in vivo can reduce this requirement and may be effective as an antiviral therapy.

Jochems, C., et al. (2017). "Analyses of functions of an anti-PD-L1/TGFbetaR2 bispecific fusion protein (M7824)." Oncotarget 8(43): 75217-75231.

M7824 (MSB0011359C) is a novel first-in-class bifunctional fusion protein consisting of a fully human IgG1 anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibody (with structural similarities to avelumab) linked to the extracellular domain of two TGFbeta receptor 2 (TGFbetaR2) molecules serving as a TGFbeta Trap. Avelumab has demonstrated clinical activity in a range of human cancers and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the therapy of Merkel cell and bladder carcinomas. Preclinical studies have shown this anti-PD-L1 is capable of mediating antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). In the studies reported here, it is shown that M7824 is also capable of mediating ADCC of a wide range of human carcinoma cells in vitro, employing natural killer (NK) cells as effectors, albeit not as potent as anti-PD-L1 employing some tumor cells as targets. The addition of the IL-15 superagonist fusion protein complex ALT-803 enhanced the ADCC capacity of both anti-PD-L1 and M7824, and to levels that both agents now demonstrated similar levels of ADCC of tumor cells. TGFbeta is a known immunosuppressive entity. Studies reported here show TGFbeta1 induced reduction of several NK activation markers as well as reduction of endogenous NK lytic activity and NK-mediated ADCC of tumor cells. These phenomena could be reduced or mitigated, however, by M7824, but not by anti-PD-L1. M7824, but not anti-PD-L1, was also shown to reduce the immunosuppressive activity of regulatory T cells on human CD4(+) T-cell proliferation. These studies thus demonstrate the dual functionalities of M7824 and provide the rationale for its further clinical development.

Huang, J., et al. (2017). "Intravesical ALT-803 for BCG-unresponsive Bladder Cancer - A Case Report." Urol Case Rep 14: 15-17.

The administration of intravesical chemotherapy or BCG often can prolong the progression-free interval after initial transurethral resection in select bladder cancer (BCa) patients. However, 60% of these patients will recur and up to 30% of patients with recurrent BCa will progress and succumb to their disease over a 15 year period, while another 50% will cystectomy in an attempt to control their disease. Thus better therapeutic strategies are needed for patients who have failed intravesical therapy. In this article, we report the treatment of a 91-year-old man with NMIBC with high-risk features that had failed multiple intravesical therapies.

Felices, M., et al. (2017). "IL-15 super-agonist (ALT-803) enhances natural killer (NK) cell function against ovarian cancer." Gynecol Oncol 145(3): 453-461.

OBJECTIVE: Natural killer (NK) cells represent a powerful immunotherapeutic target as they lyse tumors directly, do not require differentiation, and can elicit potent inflammatory responses. The objective of these studies was to use an IL-15 super-agonist complex, ALT-803 (Altor BioScience Corporation), to enhance the function of both normal and ovarian cancer patient derived NK cells by increasing cytotoxicity and cytokine production. METHODS: NK cell function from normal donor peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and ovarian cancer patient ascites was assessed using flow cytometry and chromium release assays +/-ALT-803 stimulation. To evaluate the ability of ALT-803 to enhance NK cell function in vivo against ovarian cancer, we used a MA148-luc ovarian cancer NOD scid gamma (NSG) xenogeneic mouse model with transferred human NK cells. RESULTS: ALT-803 potently enhanced functionality of NK cells against all ovarian cancer cell lines with significant increases seen in CD107a, IFNgamma and TNFalpha expression depending on target cell line. Function was also rescued in NK cells derived from ovarian cancer patient ascites. Finally, only animals treated with intraperitoneal ALT-803 displayed an NK dependent significant decrease in tumor. CONCLUSIONS: ALT-803 enhances NK cell cytotoxicity against ovarian cancer in vitro and in vivo and is able to rescue functionality of NK cells derived from ovarian cancer patient ascites. These findings suggest that ALT-803 has the potential to enhance NK cell-based immunotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Bardhi, A., et al. (2017). "Potent In Vivo NK Cell-Mediated Elimination of HIV-1-Infected Cells Mobilized by a gp120-Bispecific and Hexavalent Broadly Neutralizing Fusion Protein." J Virol 91(20).

Antibodies bound to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope protein expressed by infected cells mobilize antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) to eliminate the HIV-1-infected cells and thereby suppress HIV-1 infection and delay disease progression. Studies treating HIV-1-infected individuals with latency reactivation agents to reduce their latent HIV-1 reservoirs indicated that their HIV-1-specific immune responses were insufficient to effectively eliminate the reactivated latent HIV-1-infected T cells. Mobilization of ADCC may facilitate elimination of reactivated latent HIV-1-infected cells to deplete the HIV-1 reservoir and contribute to a functional HIV-1 cure. The most effective antibodies for controlling and eradicating HIV-1 infection would likely have the dual capacities of potently neutralizing a broad range of HIV-1 isolates and effectively mobilizing HIV-1-specific ADCC to eliminate HIV-1-infected cells. For this purpose, we constructed LSEVh-LS-F, a broadly neutralizing, defucosylated hexavalent fusion protein specific for both the CD4 and coreceptor gp120-binding sites. LSEVh-LS-F potently inhibited in vivo HIV-1 and simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) infection in humanized mouse and macaque models, respectively, including in vivo neutralization of HIV-1 strains resistant to the broadly neutralizing antibodies VRC01 and 3BNC117. We developed a novel humanized mouse model to evaluate in vivo human NK cell-mediated elimination of HIV-1-infected cells by ADCC and utilized it to demonstrate that LSEVh-LS-F rapidly mobilized NK cells to eliminate >80% of HIV-1-infected cells in vivo 1 day after its administration. The capacity of LSEVh-LS-F to eliminate HIV-1-infected cells via ADCC combined with its broad neutralization activity supports its potential use as an immunotherapeutic agent to eliminate reactivated latent cells and deplete the HIV-1 reservoir.IMPORTANCE Mobilization of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) to eliminate reactivated latent HIV-1-infected cells is a strategy which may contribute to depleting the HIV-1 reservoir and achieving a functional HIV-1 cure. To more effectively mobilize ADCC, we designed and constructed LSEVh-LS-F, a broadly neutralizing, defucosylated hexavalent fusion protein specific for both the CD4 and coreceptor gp120-binding sites. LSEVh-LS-F potently inhibited in vivo HIV-1 and SHIV infection in humanized mouse and macaque models, respectively, including in vivo neutralization of an HIV-1 strain resistant to the broadly neutralizing antibodies VRC01 and 3BNC117. Using a novel humanized mouse model, we demonstrated that LSEVh-LS-F rapidly mobilized NK cells to eliminate >80% of HIV-1-infected cells in vivo 1 day after its administration. The capacity of LSEVh-LS-F to eliminate HIV-1-infected cells via ADCC combined with its broad neutralization activity supports its potential use as an immunotherapeutic agent to eliminate reactivated latent cells and deplete the HIV-1 reservoir.

Bailey, C. P., et al. (2017). "New interleukin-15 superagonist (IL-15SA) significantly enhances graft-versus-tumor activity." Oncotarget 8(27): 44366-44378.

Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is a potent cytokine that increases CD8+ T and NK cell numbers and function in experimental models. However, obstacles remain in using IL-15 therapeutically, specifically its low potency and short in vivo half-life. To help overcome this, a new IL-15 superagonist complex comprised of an IL-15N72D mutation and IL-15RalphaSu/Fc fusion (IL-15SA, also known as ALT-803) was developed. IL-15SA exhibits a significantly longer serum half-life and increased in vivo activity against various tumors. Herein, we evaluated the effects of IL-15SA in recipients of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Weekly administration of IL-15SA to transplant recipients significantly increased the number of CD8+ T cells (specifically CD44+ memory/activated phenotype) and NK cells. Intracellular IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha secretion by CD8+ T cells increased in the IL-15SA-treated group. IL-15SA also upregulated NKG2D expression on CD8+ T cells. Moreover, IL-15SA enhanced proliferation and cytokine secretion of adoptively transferred CFSE-labeled T cells in syngeneic and allogeneic models by specifically stimulating the slowly proliferative and nonproliferative cells into actively proliferating cells.We then evaluated IL-15SA’s effects on anti-tumor activity against murine mastocytoma (P815) and murine B cell lymphoma (A20). IL-15SA enhanced graft-versus-tumor (GVT) activity in these tumors following T cell infusion. Interestingly, IL-15 SA administration provided GVT activity against A20 lymphoma cells in the murine donor leukocyte infusion (DLI) model without increasing graft versus host disease. In conclusion, IL-15SA could be a highly potent T- cell lymphoid growth factor and novel immunotherapeutic agent to complement stem cell transplantation and adoptive immunotherapy.

Rosario, M., et al. (2016). "The IL-15-Based ALT-803 Complex Enhances FcgammaRIIIa-Triggered NK Cell Responses and In Vivo Clearance of B Cell Lymphomas." Clin Cancer Res 22(3): 596-608.

PURPOSE: Anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) are an important immunotherapy for B-cell lymphoma, and provide evidence that the immune system may be harnessed as an effective lymphoma treatment approach. ALT-803 is a superagonist IL-15 mutant and IL-15Ralpha-Fc fusion complex that activates the IL-15 receptor constitutively expressed on natural killer (NK) cells. We hypothesized that ALT-803 would enhance anti-CD20 mAb-directed NK-cell responses and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We tested this hypothesis by adding ALT-803 immunostimulation to anti-CD20 mAb triggering of NK cells in vitro and in vivo. Cell lines and primary human lymphoma cells were utilized as targets for primary human NK cells. Two complementary in vivo mouse models were used, which included human NK-cell xenografts in NOD/SCID-gammac (-/-) mice. RESULTS: We demonstrate that short-term ALT-803 stimulation significantly increased degranulation, IFNgamma production, and ADCC by human NK cells against B-cell lymphoma cell lines or primary follicular lymphoma cells. ALT-803 augmented cytotoxicity and the expression of granzyme B and perforin, providing one potential mechanism for this enhanced functionality. Moreover, in two distinct in vivo B-cell lymphoma models, the addition of ALT-803 to anti-CD20 mAb therapy resulted in significantly reduced tumor cell burden and increased survival. Long-term ALT-803 stimulation of human NK cells induced proliferation and NK-cell subset changes with preserved ADCC. CONCLUSIONS: ALT-803 represents a novel immunostimulatory drug that enhances NK-cell antilymphoma responses in vitro and in vivo, thereby supporting the clinical investigation of ALT-803 plus anti-CD20 mAbs in patients with indolent B-cell lymphoma.

Rhode, P. R., et al. (2016). "Comparison of the Superagonist Complex, ALT-803, to IL15 as Cancer Immunotherapeutics in Animal Models." Cancer Immunol Res 4(1): 49-60.

IL15, a potent stimulant of CD8(+) T cells and natural killer (NK) cells, is a promising cancer immunotherapeutic. ALT-803 is a complex of an IL15 superagonist mutant and a dimeric IL15 receptor alphaSu/Fc fusion protein that was found to exhibit enhanced biologic activity in vivo, with a substantially longer serum half-life than recombinant IL15. A single intravenous dose of ALT-803, but not IL15, eliminated well-established tumors and prolonged survival of mice bearing multiple myeloma. In this study, we extended these findings to demonstrate the superior antitumor activity of ALT-803 over IL15 in mice bearing subcutaneous B16F10 melanoma tumors and CT26 colon carcinoma metastases. Tissue biodistribution studies in mice also showed much greater retention of ALT-803 in the lymphoid organs compared with IL15, consistent with its highly potent immunostimulatory and antitumor activities in vivo. Weekly dosing with 1 mg/kg ALT-803 in C57BL/6 mice was well tolerated, yet capable of increasing peripheral blood lymphocyte, neutrophil, and monocyte counts by >8-fold. ALT-803 dose-dependent stimulation of immune cell infiltration into the lymphoid organs was also observed. Similarly, cynomolgus monkeys treated weekly with ALT-803 showed dose-dependent increases of peripheral blood lymphocyte counts, including NK, CD4(+), and CD8(+) memory T-cell subsets. In vitro studies demonstrated ALT-803-mediated stimulation of mouse and human immune cell proliferation and IFNgamma production without inducing a broad-based release of other proinflammatory cytokines (i.e., cytokine storm). Based on these results, a weekly dosing regimen of ALT-803 has been implemented in multiple clinical studies to evaluate the dose required for effective immune cell stimulation in humans.

Mathios, D., et al. (2016). "Therapeutic administration of IL-15 superagonist complex ALT-803 leads to long-term survival and durable antitumor immune response in a murine glioblastoma model." Int J Cancer 138(1): 187-194.

Glioblastoma is the most aggressive primary central nervous system malignancy with a poor prognosis in patients. Despite the need for better treatments against glioblastoma, very little progress has been made in discovering new therapies that exhibit superior survival benefit than the standard of care. Immunotherapy has been shown to be a promising treatment modality that could help improve clinical outcomes of glioblastoma patients by assisting the immune system to overcome the immunosuppressive tumor environment. Interleukin-15 (IL-15), a cytokine shown to activate several effector components of the immune system, may serve as an excellent immunotherapeutic candidate for the treatment of glioblastoma. Thus, we evaluated the efficacy of an IL-15 superagonist complex (IL-15N72D:IL-15RalphaSu-Fc; also known as ALT-803) in a murine GL261-luc glioblastoma model. We show that ALT-803, as a single treatment as well as in combination with anti-PD-1 antibody or stereotactic radiosurgery, exhibits a robust antitumor immune response resulting in a prolonged survival including complete remission in tumor bearing mice. In addition, ALT-803 treatment results in long-term immune memory against glioblastoma tumor rechallenge. Flow cytometric analysis of tumor infiltrating immune cells shows that ALT-803 leads to increased percentage of CD8+-cell infiltration, but not the NK cells, and IFN-gamma production into the tumor microenvironment. Cell depletion studies, in accordance with the flow cytometric results, show that the ALT-803 therapeutic effect is dependent on CD4+ and CD8+ cells. These results provide a rationale for evaluating the therapeutic activity of ALT-803 against glioblastoma in the clinical setting.

Liu, B., et al. (2016). "A Novel Fusion of ALT-803 (Interleukin (IL)-15 Superagonist) with an Antibody Demonstrates Antigen-specific Antitumor Responses." J Biol Chem 291(46): 23869-23881.

IL-15 and its receptor alpha (IL-15Ralpha) are co-expressed on antigen-presenting cells, allowing transpresentation of IL-15 to immune cells bearing IL-2RbetagammaC and stimulation of effector immune responses. We reported previously that the high-affinity interactions between an IL-15 superagonist (IL-15N72D) and the extracellular IL-15Ralpha sushi domain (IL-15RalphaSu) could be exploited to create a functional scaffold for the design of multivalent disease-targeted complexes. The IL-15N72D.IL-15RalphaSuFc complex, also known as ALT-803, is a multimeric complex constructed by fusing IL-15N72D.IL-15RalphaSu to the Fc domain of IgG1. ALT-803 is an IL-15 superagonist complex that has been developed as a potent antitumor immunotherapeutic agent and is in clinical trials. Here we describe the creation of a novel fusion molecule, 2B8T2M, using the ALT-803 scaffold fused to four single chains of the tumor-targeting monoclonal antibody rituximab. This molecule displays trispecific binding activity through its recognition of the CD20 molecule on tumor cells, stimulation via IL-2RbetagammaC displayed on immune effector cells, and binding to Fcgamma receptors on natural killer cells and macrophages. 2B8T2M activates natural killer cells to enhance antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, mediates complement-dependent cytotoxicity, and induces apoptosis of B-lymphoma cells. Compared with rituximab, 2B8T2M exhibits significantly stronger antitumor activity in a xenograft SCID mouse model and depletes B cells in cynomolgus monkeys more efficiently. Thus, ALT-803 can be modified as a functional scaffold for creating multispecific, targeted IL-15-based immunotherapeutic agents and may serve as a novel platform to improve the antitumor activity and clinical efficacy of therapeutic antibodies.

Kim, P. S., et al. (2016). "IL-15 superagonist/IL-15RalphaSushi-Fc fusion complex (IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc; ALT-803) markedly enhances specific subpopulations of NK and memory CD8+ T cells, and mediates potent anti-tumor activity against murine breast and colon carcinomas." Oncotarget 7(13): 16130-16145.

Interleukin (IL)-15-N72D superagonist-complexed with IL-15RalphaSushi-Fc fusion protein (IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc; ALT-803) has been reported to exhibit significant anti-tumor activity in murine myeloma, rat bladder cancer, and murine glioblastoma models. In this study, we examined the immunomodulatory and anti-tumor effects of IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc in tumor-free and highly metastatic tumor-bearing mice. Here, IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc significantly expanded natural killer (NK) and CD8+ T cells. In examining NK cell subsets, the greatest significant increase was in highly cytotoxic and migrating (CD11b+, CD27hi; high effector) NK cells, leading to enhanced function on a per-cell basis. CD8+ T cell subset analysis determined that IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc significantly increased IL-15 responding memory (CD122+, CD44+) CD8+ T cells, in particular those having the innate (NKG2D+, PD1-) phenotype. In 4T1 breast tumor-bearing mice, IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc induced significant anti-tumor activity against spontaneous pulmonary metastases, depending on CD8+ T and NK cells, and resulting in prolonged survival. Similar anti-tumor activity was seen in the experimental pulmonary metastasis model of CT26 colon carcinoma cells, particularly when IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc was combined with a cocktail of checkpoint inhibitors, anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-L1. Altogether, these studies showed for the first time that IL-15SA/IL-15RalphaSu-Fc (1) promoted the development of high effector NK cells and CD8+ T cell responders of the innate phenotype, (2) enhanced function of NK cells, and (3) played a vital role in reducing tumor metastasis and ultimately survival, especially in combination with checkpoint inhibitors.

Jones, R. B., et al. (2016). "A Subset of Latency-Reversing Agents Expose HIV-Infected Resting CD4+ T-Cells to Recognition by Cytotoxic T-Lymphocytes." PLoS Pathog 12(4): e1005545.

Resting CD4+ T-cells harboring inducible HIV proviruses are a critical reservoir in antiretroviral therapy (ART)-treated subjects. These cells express little to no viral protein, and thus neither die by viral cytopathic effects, nor are efficiently cleared by immune effectors. Elimination of this reservoir is theoretically possible by combining latency-reversing agents (LRAs) with immune effectors, such as CD8+ T-cells. However, the relative efficacy of different LRAs in sensitizing latently-infected cells for recognition by HIV-specific CD8+ T-cells has not been determined. To address this, we developed an assay that utilizes HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell clones as biosensors for HIV antigen expression. By testing multiple CD8+ T-cell clones against a primary cell model of HIV latency, we identified several single agents that primed latently-infected cells for CD8+ T-cell recognition, including IL-2, IL-15, two IL-15 superagonists (IL-15SA and ALT-803), prostratin, and the TLR-2 ligand Pam3CSK4. In contrast, we did not observe CD8+ T-cell recognition of target cells following treatment with histone deacetylase inhibitors or with hexamethylene bisacetamide (HMBA). In further experiments we demonstrate that a clinically achievable concentration of the IL-15 superagonist ‘ALT-803’, an agent presently in clinical trials for solid and hematological tumors, primes the natural ex vivo reservoir for CD8+ T-cell recognition. Thus, our results establish a novel experimental approach for comparative evaluation of LRAs, and highlight ALT-803 as an LRA with the potential to synergize with CD8+ T-cells in HIV eradication strategies.

Gaither, K. A., et al. (2016). "The immunomodulatory, antitumor and antimetastatic responses of melanoma-bearing normal and alcoholic mice to sunitinib and ALT-803: a combinatorial treatment approach." Cancer Immunol Immunother 65(9): 1123-1134.

ALT-803, a novel IL-15/IL-15 receptor alpha complex, and the tyrosine kinase inhibitor, sunitinib, were examined for their single and combined effects on the growth of subcutaneous B16BL6 melanoma and on lymph node and lung metastasis. The study was conducted in immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice drinking water (Water mice) and in mice that chronically consumed alcohol (Alcohol mice), which are deficient in CD8(+) T cells. Sunitinib inhibited melanoma growth and was more effective in Alcohol mice. ALT-803 did not alter tumor growth or survival in Water or Alcohol mice. Combined ALT-803 and sunitinib inhibited melanoma growth and increased survival, and these effects were greater than sunitinib alone in Water mice. ALT-803 and alcohol independently suppressed lymph node and lung metastasis, whereas sunitinib alone or in combination with ALT-803 increased lymph node and lung metastasis in Water and Alcohol mice. Initially, ALT-803 increased IFN-gamma-producing CD8(+)CD44(hi) memory T cells and CD8(+)CD44(hi)CD62L(lo) effector memory T cells and sunitinib decreased immunosuppressive MDSC and T regulatory cells (Treg). However, the impact of these treatments diminished with time. Subcutaneous tumors from Water mice showed increased numbers of CD8(+) T cells, CD8(+)CD44(hi) T cells, NK cells, and MDSC cells and decreased Treg cells after ALT-803 treatment.

Gaither, K. A., et al. (2016). "The immunomodulatory, antitumor and antimetastatic responses of melanoma-bearing normal and alcoholic mice to sunitinib and ALT-803: a combinatorial treatment approach." Cancer Immunol Immunother 65(9): 1123-1134.

ALT-803, a novel IL-15/IL-15 receptor alpha complex, and the tyrosine kinase inhibitor, sunitinib, were examined for their single and combined effects on the growth of subcutaneous B16BL6 melanoma and on lymph node and lung metastasis. The study was conducted in immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice drinking water (Water mice) and in mice that chronically consumed alcohol (Alcohol mice), which are deficient in CD8(+) T cells. Sunitinib inhibited melanoma growth and was more effective in Alcohol mice. ALT-803 did not alter tumor growth or survival in Water or Alcohol mice. Combined ALT-803 and sunitinib inhibited melanoma growth and increased survival, and these effects were greater than sunitinib alone in Water mice. ALT-803 and alcohol independently suppressed lymph node and lung metastasis, whereas sunitinib alone or in combination with ALT-803 increased lymph node and lung metastasis in Water and Alcohol mice. Initially, ALT-803 increased IFN-gamma-producing CD8(+)CD44(hi) memory T cells and CD8(+)CD44(hi)CD62L(lo) effector memory T cells and sunitinib decreased immunosuppressive MDSC and T regulatory cells (Treg). However, the impact of these treatments diminished with time. Subcutaneous tumors from Water mice showed increased numbers of CD8(+) T cells, CD8(+)CD44(hi) T cells, NK cells, and MDSC cells and decreased Treg cells after ALT-803 treatment.

Bergerson, R. J., et al. (2016). "Fewer Circulating Natural Killer Cells 28 Days After Double Cord Blood Transplantation Predicts Inferior Survival and IL-15 Response." Blood Adv 1(3): 208-218.

Natural Killer (NK) cell immune reconstitution after double umbilical cord blood transplantation (dUCBT) is rapid and thought to be involved in graft vs. leukemia (GvL) reactions. To investigate the role of NK cell recovery on clinical outcomes, the absolute number of NK cells at Day 28 after dUCBT was determined and patients with low numbers of NK cells had inferior two year disease-free survival (hazard ratio 1.96; p=0.04). A detailed developmental and functional analysis of the recovering NK cells was performed to link NK recovery and patient survival. The proportion of NK cells in each developmental stage was similar for patients with low, medium, and high Day 28 NK cell numbers. As compared to healthy controls, patients post-transplant showed reduced NK functional responses upon K562 challenge (CD107a, IFN-gamma, and TNFalpha); however, there were no differences based on Day 28 NK cell number. Patients with low NK numbers had 30% less STAT5 phosphorylation in response to exogenous IL-15 (p=0.04) and decreased Eomes expression (p=0.025) compared to patients with high NK numbers. Decreased STAT5 phosphorylation and Eomes expression may be indicative of reduced sensitivity to IL-15 in the low NK cell group. Incubation of patient samples with IL-15 superagonist (ALT803) increased cytotoxicity and cytokine production in all patient groups. Thus, clinical interventions, including administration of IL-15 early after transplantation may increase NK cell number and function and, in turn, improve transplantation outcomes.

Basher, F., et al. (2016). "Cooperative therapeutic anti-tumor effect of IL-15 agonist ALT-803 and co-targeting soluble NKG2D ligand sMIC." Oncotarget 7(1): 814-830.

Shedding of the human NKG2D ligand MIC (MHC class I-chain-related molecule) from tumor cell surfaces correlates with progression of many epithelial cancers. Shedding-derived soluble MIC (sMIC) enables tumor immune escape through multiple immune suppressive mechanisms, such as disturbing natural killer (NK) cell homeostatic maintenance, impairing NKG2D expression on NK cells and effector T cells, and facilitating the expansion of arginase I+ myeloid suppressor cells. Our recent study has demonstrated that sMIC is an effective cancer therapeutic target. Whether targeting tumor-derived sMIC would enhance current active immunotherapy is not known. Here, we determined the in vivo therapeutic effect of an antibody co-targeting sMIC with the immunostimulatory IL-15 superagonist complex, ALT-803, using genetically engineered transplantable syngeneic sMIC+ tumor models. We demonstrate that combined therapy of a nonblocking antibody neutralizing sMIC and ALT-803 improved the survival of animals bearing sMIC+ tumors in comparison to monotherapy. We further demonstrate that the enhanced therapeutic effect with combined therapy is through concurrent augmentation of NK and CD8 T cell anti-tumor responses. In particular, expression of activation-induced surface molecules and increased functional potential by cytokine secretion are improved greatly by the administration of combined therapy. Depletion of NK cells abolished the cooperative therapeutic effect. Our findings suggest that administration of the sMIC-neutralizing antibody can enhance the anti-tumor effects of ALT-803. With ALT-803 currently in clinical trials to treat progressive solid tumors, the majority of which are sMIC+, our findings provide a rationale for co-targeting sMIC to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of ALT-803 or other IL-15 agonists.

Allegrezza, M. J., et al. (2016). "IL15 Agonists Overcome the Immunosuppressive Effects of MEK Inhibitors." Cancer Res 76(9): 2561-2572.

Many signal transduction inhibitors are being developed for cancer therapy target pathways that are also important for the proper function of antitumor lymphocytes, possibly weakening their therapeutic effects. Here we show that most inhibitors targeting multiple signaling pathways have especially strong negative effects on T-cell activation at their active doses on cancer cells. In particular, we found that recently approved MEK inhibitors displayed potent suppressive effects on T cells in vitro However, these effects could be attenuated by certain cytokines that can be administered to cancer patients. Among them, clinically available IL15 superagonists, which can activate PI3K selectively in T lymphocytes, synergized with MEK inhibitors in vivo to elicit potent and durable antitumor responses, including by a vaccine-like effect that generated resistance to tumor rechallenge. Our work identifies a clinically actionable approach to overcome the T-cell-suppressive effects of MEK inhibitors and illustrates how to reconcile the deficiencies of signal transduction inhibitors, which impede desired immunologic effects in vivo Cancer Res; 76(9); 2561-72. (c)2016 AACR.

Miller, J.S., et al. (2015). “'First-in-human' phase I dose escalation trial of IL-15N72D/IL-15Rα-Fc superagonist complex (ALT-803) demonstrates immune activation with anti-tumor activity in patients with relapsed hematological malignancy.” Blood 126: 1957.

Disease-free survival after allogeneic transplantation for hematological malignancies may be enhanced with post-transplant immunotherapy. IL-15 is a homeostatic cytokine that stimulates both NK cells and CD8+ T cells, but unlike IL-2 it does not stimulate suppressive regulatory T cells. Physiologic IL-15 signaling occurs after trans-presentation with IL-15Rα to IL-15Rβ and IL15Rγ (common chains shared with the IL-2R). ALT-803 (Altor BioSciences) is an IL-15/IL- 15Rα-Fc superagonist complex, which includes an activation mutation in IL-15 (N72D), a sushi domain to increase transpresentation, and an IgG1 Fc domain to increase serum half-life and stability. In preclinical mouse models, ALT-803 exhibits potent anti-tumor activity. We therefore performed a ‘first-in-human’ phase I open label dose escalation trial of ALT-803 in patients with relapsed hematologic malignancy after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (> 60 days) with no active GVHD and having >10% residual donor chimerism. Sixteen patients (AML, n=10; MDS, n=2; myeloma, n=2; ALL, n=1; NHL, n=1) received escalating doses of intravenous ALT- 803 given weekly x 4 doses in 4 cohorts of 1 (n=6), 3 (n=3), 6 (n=4), and 10 (n=3) mcg/kg. Cohort 1 was expanded because of atrial fibrillation (grade 2 toxicity) in an AML subject with a prior history. One unevaluable subject in Cohort 3 who did not receive the minimum 3 doses of ALT-803 was replaced. There was highly reproducible and dose-dependent constitutional symptoms, consistent with immune activation (fevers and tachycardia) that peaked at 5-6 hours after each dose despite pre-medication with acetaminophen & diphenhydramine.

Seay, K., et al. (2015). "In Vivo Activation of Human NK Cells by Treatment with an Interleukin-15 Superagonist Potently Inhibits Acute In Vivo HIV-1 Infection in Humanized Mice." J Virol 89(12): 6264-6274.

UNLABELLED: Natural killer (NK) cells with anti-HIV-1 activity may inhibit HIV-1 replication and dissemination during acute HIV-1 infection. We hypothesized that the capacity of NK cells to suppress acute in vivo HIV-1 infection would be augmented by activating them via treatment with an interleukin-15 (IL-15) superagonist, IL-15 bound to soluble IL-15Ralpha, an approach that potentiates human NK cell-mediated killing of tumor cells. In vitro stimulation of human NK cells with a recombinant IL-15 superagonist significantly induced their expression of the cytotoxic effector molecules granzyme B and perforin; their degranulation upon exposure to K562 cells, as indicated by cell surface expression of CD107a; and their capacity to lyse K562 cells and HIV-1-infected T cells. The impact of IL-15 superagonist-induced activation of human NK cells on acute in vivo HIV-1 infection was investigated by using hu-spl-PBMC-NSG mice, NOD-SCID-IL2rgamma(-/-) (NSG) mice intrasplenically injected with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) which develop productive in vivo infection after intrasplenic inoculation with HIV-1. IL-15 superagonist treatment potently inhibited acute HIV-1 infection in hu-spl-PBMC-NSG mice even when delayed until 3 days after intrasplenic HIV-1 inoculation. Removal of NK cells from human PBMCs prior to intrasplenic injection into NSG mice completely abrogated IL-15 superagonist-mediated suppression of in vivo HIV-1 infection. Thus, the in vivo activation of NK cells, integral mediators of the innate immune response, by treatment with an IL-15 superagonist increases their anti-HIV activity and enables them to potently suppress acute in vivo HIV-1 infection. These results indicate that in vivo activation of NK cells may represent a new immunotherapeutic approach to suppress acute HIV-1 infection. IMPORTANCE: Epidemiological studies have indicated that NK cells contribute to the control of HIV-1 infection, and in vitro studies have demonstrated that NK cells can selectively kill HIV-1-infected cells. We demonstrated that in vivo activation of NK cells by treatment with an IL-15 superagonist that potently stimulates the antitumor activity of NK cells markedly inhibited acute HIV-1 infection in humanized mice, even when activation of NK cells by IL-15 superagonist treatment is delayed until 3 days after HIV-1 inoculation. NK cell depletion from PBMCs prior to their intrasplenic injection abrogated the suppression of in vivo HIV-1 infection observed in humanized mice treated with the IL-15 superagonist, demonstrating that activated human NK cells were mediating IL-15 superagonist-induced inhibition of acute HIV-1 infection. Thus, in vivo immunostimulation of NK cells, a promising therapeutic approach for cancer therapy, may represent a new treatment modality for HIV-1-infected individuals, particularly in the earliest stages of infection.

Jones, R. B., et al. (2014). "Histone deacetylase inhibitors impair the elimination of HIV-infected cells by cytotoxic T-lymphocytes." PLoS Pathog 10(8): e1004287.

Resting memory CD4+ T-cells harboring latent HIV proviruses represent a critical barrier to viral eradication. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis), such as suberanilohydroxamic acid (SAHA), romidepsin, and panobinostat have been shown to induce HIV expression in these resting cells. Recently, it has been demonstrated that the low levels of viral gene expression induced by a candidate HDACi may be insufficient to cause the death of infected cells by viral cytopathic effects, necessitating their elimination by immune effectors, such as cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL). Here, we study the impact of three HDACis in clinical development on T-cell effector functions. We report two modes of HDACi-induced functional impairment: i) the rapid suppression of cytokine production from viable T-cells induced by all three HDACis ii) the selective death of activated T-cells occurring at later time-points following transient exposures to romidepsin or, to a lesser extent, panobinostat. As a net result of these factors, HDACis impaired CTL-mediated IFN-gamma production, as well as the elimination of HIV-infected or peptide-pulsed target cells, both in liquid culture and in collagen matrices. Romidepsin exerted greater inhibition of antiviral function than SAHA or panobinostat over the dose ranges tested. These data suggest that treatment with HDACis to mobilize the latent reservoir could have unintended negative impacts on the effector functions of CTL. This could influence the effectiveness of HDACi-based eradication strategies, by impairing elimination of infected cells, and is a critical consideration for trials where therapeutic interruptions are being contemplated, given the importance of CTL in containing rebound viremia.

Gomes-Giacoia, E., et al. (2014). "Intravesical ALT-803 and BCG treatment reduces tumor burden in a carcinogen induced bladder cancer rat model; a role for cytokine production and NK cell expansion." PLoS One 9(6): e96705.

Intravesical Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) has been shown to induce a specific immunologic response (i.e., activation of IL-2 and effector T-cells), while preclinical studies using ALT-803 (mutated IL-15 analogue combined with IL-15Ralpha-Fc fusion) have shown promising results by prolonging the agent’s half-life and stimulating CD8+ T-cells. Based on these results, we hypothesized that the intravesical administration of ALT-803 along with BCG will generate an immunologic response leading to significant bladder tumor burden reduction. Using a well-established carcinogen induced rat non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) model, we studied the effects of intravesical ALT-803 with and without BCG. Rat tissues were evaluated to document treatment response. Intravesical ALT-803 was safe and well tolerated alone and in combination with BCG. As a single treatment agent, ALT-803 reduced tumor burden by 35% compared to control whereas BCG alone only reduced tumor burden by 15%. However, the combination of ALT-803 plus BCG reduced tumor burden by 46% compared to control. Immune monitoring suggested that the antitumor response was linked to the production and secretion of IL-1alpha, IL-1beta and RANTES, which in turn, induced the proliferation and activation of NK cells. Lastly, tumoral responses of the combinational treatment were associated with 76% reduction in angiogenesis, which is significantly higher than when assessed with either agent alone. The enhanced therapeutic index seen with this duplet provides justification for the development of this regimen for future clinical trials.

Xu, W., et al. (2013). "Efficacy and mechanism-of-action of a novel superagonist interleukin-15: interleukin-15 receptor alphaSu/Fc fusion complex in syngeneic murine models of multiple myeloma." Cancer Res 73(10): 3075-3086.

ALT-803, a complex of an interleukin (IL)-15 superagonist mutant and a dimeric IL-15 receptor alphaSu/Fc fusion protein, was found to exhibit significantly stronger in vivo biologic activity on NK and T cells than IL-15. In this study, we show that a single dose of ALT-803, but not IL-15 alone, eliminated well-established 5T33P and MOPC-315P myeloma cells in the bone marrow of tumor-bearing mice. ALT-803 treatment also significantly prolonged survival of myeloma-bearing mice and provided resistance to rechallenge with the same tumor cells through a CD8(+) T-cell-dependent mechanism. ALT-803 treatment stimulated CD8(+) T cells to secrete large amounts of IFN-gamma and promoted rapid expansion of CD8(+)CD44(high) memory T cells in vivo. These memory CD8(+) T cells exhibited ALT-803-mediated upregulation of NKG2D (KLRK1) but not PD-1 (PDCD1) or CD25 (IL2RA) on their cell surfaces. ALT-803-activated CD8(+) memory T cells also exhibited nonspecific cytotoxicity against myeloma and other tumor cells in vitro, whereas IFN-gamma had no direct effect on myeloma cell growth. ALT-803 lost its antimyeloma activity in tumor-bearing IFN-gamma knockout mice but retained the ability to promote CD8(+)CD44(high) memory T-cell proliferation, indicating that ALT-803-mediated stimulation of CD8(+)CD44(high) memory T cells is IFN-gamma-independent. Thus, besides well-known IL-15 biologic functions in host immunity, this study shows that IL-15-based ALT-803 could activate CD8(+)CD44(high) memory T cells to acquire a unique innate-like phenotype and secrete IFN-gamma for nonspecific tumor cell killing. This unique immunomodulatory property of ALT-803 strongly supports its clinical development as a novel immunotherapeutic agent against cancer and viral infections.

Wu, J. (2013). "IL-15 Agonists: The Cancer Cure Cytokine." J Mol Genet Med 7: 85.

The immune stimulatory cytokine interleukin-15 was recognized as one of the most promising cancer cure drug in an NIH guided review and is currently in clinical trial alone or as an adjuvant for certain types of metastatic solid tumors. IL-15 is an essential survival factor for natural killer (NK), natural killer-like T (NKT), and CD44(hi) memory CD8 T cells. The bioactivity of IL-15 in vivo is conferred mainly through a trans-presentation mechanism in which IL-15 is presented in complex with the alpha-subunit of soluble IL-15 receptor (IL-15R) to NK, NKT or T cells rather than directly interacts with membrane-bound IL-15R. With these understandings, recent studies have been focused on generating IL-15 agonists which consist of IL-15 and partial or whole of soluble IL-15R to improve its in vivo bioactivity. This minireview will summarize the key features of IL-15 as a potential cancer treatment cytokine and the most recent development of IL-15 agonists and preclinical studies. Critical milestones to translate the pre-clinical development to in-patients treatment are emphasized.

Wong, H. C., et al. (2013). "The IL-15-based superagonist ALT-803 promotes the antigen-independent conversion of memory CD8(+) T cells into innate-like effector cells with antitumor activity." Oncoimmunology 2(11): e26442.

ALT-803, an interleukin-15-based superagonist, induces memory CD8(+) T cells to proliferate, upregulate receptors involved in innate immunity, secrete interferon gamma and acquire the ability to kill malignant cells in the absence of antigenic stimulation. Thus, ALT-803 can promote the expansion and activation of memory CD8(+) T cells while converting them into innate immune effector cells that exhibit robust antineoplastic activity.

Wong, R. L., et al. (2011). "Interleukin-15:Interleukin-15 receptor alpha scaffold for creation of multivalent targeted immune molecules." Protein Eng Des Sel 24(4): 373-383.

Human interleukin-15 (hIL-15) and its receptor alpha (hIL-15Ralpha) are co-expressed in antigen presenting cells allowing trans-presentation of the cytokine to immune effector cells. We exploited the high-affinity interactions between hIL-15 and the extracellular hIL-15Ralpha sushi domain (hIL-15RalphaSu) to create a functional scaffold for the design of multispecific fusion protein complexes. Using single-chain T cell receptors (scTCRs) as recognition domains linked to the IL-15:IL-15Ralpha scaffold, we generated both bivalent and bispecific complexes. In these fusions, the scTCR domains retain the antigen-binding activity and the hIL-15 domain exhibits receptor binding and biological activity. As expected, bivalent scTCR fusions exhibited improved antigen binding due to increased avidity, whereas fusions comprising two different scTCR domains were capable of binding two cognate peptide/MHC complexes. Bispecific molecules containing scTCR and scCD8alphabeta domains also exhibit enhanced binding to peptide/MHC complexes, demonstrating that the IL-15:IL-15Ralpha scaffold displays flexibility necessary to support multi-domain interactions with a given target. Surprisingly, functional heterodimeric molecules could be formed by co-expressing the TCR alpha and beta chains separately as fusions to the hIL-15 and hIL-15RalphaSu domains. Together, these properties indicate that the hIL-15 and hIL-15RalphaSu domains can be used as versatile, functional scaffold for generating novel targeted immune molecules.

Han, K. P., et al. (2011). "IL-15:IL-15 receptor alpha superagonist complex: high-level co-expression in recombinant mammalian cells, purification and characterization." Cytokine 56(3): 804-810.

IL-15, a promising cytokine for treating cancer and viral diseases, is presented in trans by the IL-15 receptor (IL-15R) alpha-chain to the IL-15Rbetagammac complex displayed on the surface of T cells and natural killer (NK) cells. We previously reported that an asparagine to aspartic acid substitution at amino acid 72 (N72D) of IL-15 provides a 4-5-fold increase in biological activity compared to the native molecule. In this report, we describe Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell expression of a soluble complex (IL-15 N72D:IL-15RalphaSu/Fc) consisting of the IL-15 N72D superagonist and a dimeric IL-15Ralpha sushi domain-IgG1 Fc fusion protein. A simple but readily scalable affinity and ion exchange chromatography method was developed to highly purify the complex having both IL-15 binding sites fully occupied. The immunostimulatory effects of this complex were confirmed using cell proliferation assays. Treatment of mice with a single intravenous dose of IL-15N72D:IL-15RalphaSu/Fc resulted in a significant increase in CD8+ T cells and NK cells that was not observed following IL-15 treatment. Pharmacokinetic analysis indicated that the complex has a 25-h half-life in mice which is considerably longer than <40-min half-life of IL-15. Thus, the enhanced activity of the IL-15N72D:IL-15RalphaSu/Fc complex is likely the result of the increased binding activity of IL-15N72D to IL-15Rbetagammac, optimized cytokine trans-presentation by the IL-15RalphaSu domain, the dimeric nature of the cytokine domain and its increased in vivo half-life compared to IL-15. These findings indicate that this IL-15 superagonist complex could serve as a superior immunostimulatory therapeutic agent.

Zhu, X., et al. (2009). "Novel human interleukin-15 agonists." J Immunol 183(6): 3598-3607.

IL-15 is an immunostimulatory cytokine trans-presented with the IL-15 receptor alpha-chain to the shared IL-2/IL-15Rbeta and common gamma-chains displayed on the surface of T cells and NK cells. To further define the functionally important regions of this cytokine, activity and binding studies were conducted on human IL-15 muteins generated by site-directed mutagenesis. Amino acid substitutions of the asparagine residue at position 72, which is located at the end of helix C, were found to provide both partial agonist and superagonist activity, with various nonconservative substitutions providing enhanced activity. Particularly, the N72D substitution provided a 4-5-fold increase in biological activity of the IL-15 mutein compared with the native molecule based on proliferation assays with cells bearing human IL-15Rbeta and common gamma-chains. The IL-15N72D mutein exhibited superagonist activity through improved binding ability to the human IL-15Rbeta-chain. However, the enhanced potency of IL-15N72D was not observed with cells expressing the mouse IL-15Ralpha-IL-15Rbeta-gamma(c) complex, suggesting that this effect is specific to the human IL-15 receptor. The enhanced biological activity of IL-15N72D was associated with more intense phosphorylation of Jak1 and Stat5 and better anti-apoptotic activity compared with the wild-type IL-15. IL-15N72D superagonist activity was also preserved when linked to a single-chain TCR domain to generate a tumor-specific fusion protein. Thus, the human IL-15 superagonist muteins and fusions may create opportunities to construct more efficacious immunotherapeutic agents with clinical utility.