Synergistic immunotherapy of glioblastoma by dual targeting of IL-6 and CD40

Fan Yang, Zhenqiang He, Hao Duan, Duo Zhang, Juehui Li, Huijuan Yang, Jay F. Dorsey, Wei Zou, S. Ali Nabavizadeh, Stephen J. Bagley, Kalil Abdullah, Steven Brem, Lin Zhang, Xiaowei Xu, Katelyn T. Byrne, Robert H. Vonderheide, Yanqing Gong, Yi Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Immunologically-cold tumors including glioblastoma (GBM) are refractory to checkpoint blockade therapy, largely due to extensive infiltration of immunosuppressive macrophages (Mϕs). Consistent with a pro-tumor role of IL-6 in alternative Mϕs polarization, we here show that targeting IL-6 by genetic ablation or pharmacological inhibition moderately improves T-cell infiltration into GBM and enhances mouse survival; however, IL-6 inhibition does not synergize PD-1 and CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade. Interestingly, anti-IL-6 therapy reduces CD40 expression in GBM-associated Mϕs. We identify a Stat3/HIF-1α-mediated axis, through which IL-6 executes an anti-tumor role to induce CD40 expression in Mϕs. Combination of IL-6 inhibition with CD40 stimulation reverses Mϕ-mediated tumor immunosuppression, sensitizes tumors to checkpoint blockade, and extends animal survival in two syngeneic GBM models, particularly inducing complete regression of GL261 tumors after checkpoint blockade. Thus, antibody cocktail-based immunotherapy that combines checkpoint blockade with dual-targeting of IL-6 and CD40 may offer exciting opportunities for GBM and other solid tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3424
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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