Agonist CD40 antibodies are under clinical development in combination with chemotherapy as an approach to prime for antitumor T cell immunity. However, treatment with anti-CD40 is commonly accompanied by both systemic cytokine release and liver transaminase elevations, which together account for the most common dose-limiting toxicities. Moreover, anti-CD40 treatment increases the potential for chemotherapy-induced hepatotoxicity. Here, we report a mechanistic link between cytokine release and hepatotoxicity induced by anti-CD40 when combined with chemotherapy and show that toxicity can be suppressed without impairing therapeutic efficacy. We demonstrate in mice and humans that anti-CD40 triggers transient hepatotoxicity marked by increased serum transaminase levels. In doing so, anti-CD40 sensitizes the liver to drug-induced toxicity. Unexpectedly, this biology is not blocked by the depletion of multiple myeloid cell subsets, including macrophages, inflammatory monocytes, and granulocytes. Transcriptional profiling of the liver after anti-CD40 revealed activation of multiple cytokine pathways including TNF and IL-6. Neutralization of TNF, but not IL-6, prevented sensitization of the liver to hepatotoxicity induced with anti-CD40 in combination with chemotherapy without impacting antitumor efficacy. Our findings reveal a clinically feasible approach to mitigate toxicity without impairing efficacy in the use of agonist CD40 antibodies for cancer immunotherapy.
Meredith L. Stone, Jesse Lee, Veronica M. Herrera, Kathleen Graham, Jae W. Lee, Austin Huffman, Heather Coho, Evan Tooker, Max I. Myers, Michael Giannone, Yan Li, Thomas H. Buckingham, Kristen B. Long, Gregory L. Beatty