The potential of costimulation blockade to serve as a novel transplant immunosuppression strategy has been explored for over 20 years, culminating in the recent clinical approval of belatacept for renal transplant patients. Despite improving long-term graft function and survival compared with calcineurin inhibitors, clinical acceptance of belatacept has been hindered by elevated rates of acute rejection. We examined the signaling pathways required to activate costimulation blockade–resistant alloreactive T cells and identified the OX40/OX40L secondary costimulatory pathway as a promising target. We next sought to improve the clinical efficacy of traditional costimulation blockade using belatacept by coupling it with anti-OX40L. Using a murine transplant model, we demonstrate that combined blockade enhances the suppression of alloreactive T cell proliferation and effector functions including both cytokine release and cytotoxic degranulation. We also show that anti-OX40L may be particularly useful in targeting alloreactive memory T cell responses that are relatively unaffected by traditional costimulation blockade regimens. Finally, we translated this therapy to a clinically relevant nonhuman primate renal transplant model, validating the efficacy of this regimen in a potentially novel steroid- and calcineurin inhibitor–free immunosuppression regimen.
William H. Kitchens, Ying Dong, David V. Mathews, Cynthia P. Breeden, Elizabeth Strobert, Maria E. Fuentes, Christian P. Larsen, Mandy L. Ford, Andrew B. Adams