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Frontiers in Immunology








Interleukin 15 (IL-15) has been evaluated as a potential treatment for solid tumors in clinical trials, but the effectiveness of systemic IL-15 administration as a monotherapy has not been realized. IL-15 receptor alpha (IL-15Rα) can stabilize IL-15 and enhance its bioactivity. The goal of this study was to examine the activity of IL-15/IL-15Rα complex (IL-15cx) to CD8(+) T cells and evaluate its potential efficacy in murine breast cancer models. The antitumor efficacy was studied in mouse mammary carcinoma models (Her2/neu transgenic and 4T1-luc mammary cancers) treated with systemic recombinant protein with/without the depletion of myeloid-derived suppressor cells or intra-tumoral gene electrotransfer (GET). IL-15cx shows superior in vivo bioactivity to expand CD8 T cells in comparison to an equimolar single chain IL-15. T-bet is partially involved in CD8 T cell expansion ex vivo and in vivo due to IL-15 or IL-15cx. Intraperitoneal administration of IL-15cx results in a moderate inhibition of breast cancer growth that is associated with an increase in the frequency of cytotoxic CD8 T cells and the improvement of their function. The depletion of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) has no impact on mouse breast cancer growth. IL-15cx treatment diminishes MDSCs in murine tumors. However, it also antagonizes the effects of anti-Gr-1 depleting antibodies. Intratumoral GET with plasmid IL-15/IL-15Rα leads to a long-term survival benefit in 4T1 mammary carcinoma model. An early increase of local cytotoxic cells correlates with GET treatment and an increase of long-term memory T cells results from animals with complete tumor regression. Systemic and local administration of IL-15cx shows two distinct therapeutic responses, a moderate tumor growth inhibition or heterogeneous tumor regressions with survival improvement. Further studies are warranted to improve the efficacy of IL-15cx as an immunotherapy for breast cancer.


© 2020 Guo, Smeltz, Nanajian and Heller. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Original Publication Citation

Guo, S., Smeltz, R. B., Nanajian, A., & Heller, R. (2021). IL-15/IL-15Rα heterodimeric complex as cancer immunotherapy in murine breast cancer models. Frontiers in Immunology, 11, 1-12, Article 614667.


0000-0002-7280-7888 (Guo), 0000-0003-0853-8641 (Nanajian), 0000-0003-1899-3859 (Heller)