Immune cells are key regulators of neoplastic progression, which is often mediated through their release of cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 exert tumor-promoting activities by driving growth and survival of neoplastic cells. However, whether these cytokines also have a role in recruiting mediators of adaptive anticancer immunity has not been investigated. Here, we report that homeostatic trafficking of tumor-reactive CD8+ T cells across microvascular checkpoints is limited in tumors despite the presence of inflammatory cytokines. Intravital imaging in tumor-bearing mice revealed that systemic thermal therapy (core temperature elevated to 39.5°C ± 0.5°C for 6 hours) activated an IL-6 trans-signaling program in the tumor blood vessels that modified the vasculature such that it could support enhanced trafficking of CD8+ effector/memory T cells (Tems) into tumors. A concomitant decrease in tumor infiltration by Tregs during systemic thermal therapy resulted in substantial enhancement of Tem/Treg ratios. Mechanistically, IL-6 produced by nonhematopoietic stromal cells acted cooperatively with soluble IL-6 receptor–α and thermally induced gp130 to promote E/P-selectin– and ICAM-1–dependent extravasation of cytotoxic T cells in tumors. Parallel increases in vascular adhesion were induced by IL-6/soluble IL-6 receptor–α fusion protein in mouse tumors and patient tumor explants. Finally, a causal link was established between IL-6–dependent licensing of tumor vessels for Tem trafficking and apoptosis of tumor targets. These findings suggest that the unique IL-6–rich tumor microenvironment can be exploited to create a therapeutic window to boost T cell–mediated antitumor immunity and immunotherapy.
Daniel T. Fisher, Qing Chen, Joseph J. Skitzki, Jason B. Muhitch, Lei Zhou, Michelle M. Appenheimer, Trupti D. Vardam, Emily L. Weis, Jessica Passanese, Wan-Chao Wang, Sandra O. Gollnick, Mark W. Dewhirst, Stefan Rose-John, Elizabeth A. Repasky, Heinz Baumann, Sharon S. Evans