George Coukos

University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland

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Publications (196)1215.92 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Angiogenesis plays a key role in tumor growth and cancer progression. TIE-2-expressing monocytes (TEM) have been reported to critically account for tumor vascularization and growth in mouse tumor experimental models, but the molecular basis of their pro-angiogenic activity are largely unknown. Moreover, differences in the pro-angiogenic activity between blood circulating and tumor infiltrated TEM in human patients has not been established to date, hindering the identification of specific targets for therapeutic intervention. In this work, we investigated these differences and the phenotypic reversal of breast tumor pro-angiogenic TEM to a weak pro-angiogenic phenotype by combining Boolean modelling and experimental approaches.
    ECCB 2014, Strasbourg; 09/2014
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor Endothelial Marker-1 (TEM1/CD248) is a tumor vascular marker with high therapeutic and diagnostic potentials. Immuno-imaging with TEM1-specific antibodies can help to detect cancerous lesions, monitor tumor responses, and select patients that are most likely to benefit from TEM1-targeted therapies. In particular, near infrared(NIR) optical imaging with biomarker-specific antibodies can provide real-time, tomographic information without exposing the subjects to radioactivity. To maximize the theranostic potential of TEM1, we developed a panel of all human, multivalent Fc-fusion proteins based on a previously identified single chain antibody (scFv78) that recognizes both human and mouse TEM1. By characterizing avidity, stability, and pharmacokinectics, we identified one fusion protein, 78Fc, with desirable characteristics for immuno-imaging applications. The biodistribution of radiolabeled 78Fc showed that this antibody had minimal binding to normal organs, which have low expression of TEM1. Next, we developed a 78Fc-based tracer and tested its performance in different TEM1-expressing mouse models. The NIR imaging and tomography results suggest that the 78Fc-NIR tracer performs well in distinguishing mouse- or human-TEM1 expressing tumor grafts from normal organs and control grafts in vivo. From these results we conclude that further development and optimization of 78Fc as a TEM1-targeted imaging agent for use in clinical settings is warranted.
    Oncotarget 07/2014; · 6.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: T-lymphocyte infiltration in ovarian tumours has been linked to a favorable prognosis, hence, exploring the mechanism of T-cell recruitment in the tumor is warranted. We employed a differential expression analysis to identify genes over-expressed in early stage ovarian cancer samples that contained CD8 infiltrating T-lymphocytes. Among other genes, we discovered that TTF1, a regulator of ribosomal RNA gene expression, and SMARCE1, a factor associated with chromatin remodeling were overexpressed in first stage CD8+ ovarian tumours. TTF1 and SMARCE1 mRNA levels showed a strong correlation with the number of intra-tumoral CD8+ cells in ovarian tumours. Interestingly, forced overexpression of SMARCE1 in SKOV3 ovarian cancer cells resulted in secretion of IL8, MIP1b and RANTES chemokines in the supernatant and triggered chemotaxis of CD8+ lymphocytes in a cell culture assay. The potency of SMARCE1-mediated chemotaxis appeared comparable to that caused by the transfection of the CXCL9 gene, coding for a chemokine known to attract T-cells. Our analysis pinpoints TTF1 and SMARCE1 as genes potentially involved in cancer immunology. Since both TTF1 and SMARCE1 are involved in chromatin remodeling, our results imply an epigenetic regulatory mechanism for T-cell recruitment that invites deciphering.
    The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology. 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We describe a new mechanism regulating the tumor endothelial barrier and T cell infiltration into tumors. We detected selective expression of the death mediator Fas ligand (FasL, also called CD95L) in the vasculature of human and mouse solid tumors but not in normal vasculature. In these tumors, FasL expression was associated with scarce CD8(+) infiltration and a predominance of FoxP3(+) T regulatory (Treg) cells. Tumor-derived vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), interleukin 10 (IL-10) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) cooperatively induced FasL expression in endothelial cells, which acquired the ability to kill effector CD8(+) T cells but not Treg cells because of higher levels of c-FLIP expression in Treg cells. In mice, genetic or pharmacologic suppression of FasL produced a substantial increase in the influx of tumor-rejecting CD8(+) over FoxP3(+) T cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of VEGF and PGE2 produced a marked increase in the influx of tumor-rejecting CD8(+) over FoxP3(+) T cells that was dependent on attenuation of FasL expression and led to CD8-dependent tumor growth suppression. Thus, tumor paracrine mechanisms establish a tumor endothelial death barrier, which has a critical role in establishing immune tolerance and determining the fate of tumors.
    Nature medicine 05/2014; · 27.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer immunotherapy has great promise, but is limited by diverse mechanisms used by tumors to prevent sustained antitumor immune responses. Tumors disrupt antigen presentation, T/NK-cell activation, and T/NK-cell homing through soluble and cell-surface mediators, the vasculature, and immunosuppressive cells such as myeloid-derived suppressor cells and regulatory T cells. However, many molecular mechanisms preventing the efficacy of antitumor immunity have been identified and can be disrupted by combination immunotherapy. Here, we examine immunosuppressive mechanisms exploited by tumors and provide insights into the therapies under development to overcome them, focusing on lymphocyte traffic. Cancer Discov; 4(5); 522-6. ©2014 AACR.
    Cancer Discovery 05/2014; 4(5):522-6. · 15.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor endothelial marker 1 (TEM1; also known as endosialin or CD248) is a protein found on tumor vasculature and in tumor stroma. Here, we tested whether TEM1 has potential as a therapeutic target for cancer immunotherapy by immunizing immunocompetent mice with Tem1 cDNA fused to the minimal domain of the C fragment of tetanus toxoid (referred to herein as Tem1-TT vaccine). Tem1-TT vaccination elicited CD8+ and/or CD4+ T cell responses against immunodominant TEM1 protein sequences. Prophylactic immunization of animals with Tem1-TT prevented or delayed tumor formation in several murine tumor models. Therapeutic vaccination of tumor-bearing mice reduced tumor vascularity, increased infiltration of CD3+ T cells into the tumor, and controlled progression of established tumors. Tem1-TT vaccination also elicited CD8+ cytotoxic T cell responses against murine tumor-specific antigens. Effective Tem1-TT vaccination did not affect angiogenesis-dependent physiological processes, including wound healing and reproduction. Based on these data and the widespread expression of TEM1 on the vasculature of different tumor types, we conclude that targeting TEM1 has therapeutic potential in cancer immunotherapy.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 03/2014; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor endothelial marker 1 (TEM1, endosialin) is a tumor vascular marker with significant diagnostic and therapeutic potential. However, in vivo small animal models to test affinity reagents specifically targeted to human (h)TEM1 are limited. We describe a new mouse tumor model where tumor vascular endothelial cells express hTEM1 protein. Methods: Immortalized murine endothelial cells MS1 were engineered to express hTEM1 and firefly luciferase and were inoculated in nude mice either alone, to form hemangioma-like endothelial grafts, or admixed with ID8 ovarian tumor cells, to form chimeric endothelial-tumor cell grafts. MORAb-004, a monoclonal humanized IgG 1 antibody specifically recognizing human TEM1 was evaluated for targeted theranostic applications, i.e., for its ability to affect vascular grafts expressing hTEM1 as well as being a tool for molecular positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. Results: Naked MORAb-004 treatment of mice bearing angioma grafts or chimeric endothelial-tumor grafts significantly suppressed the ability of hTEM1-positive endothelial cells, but not control endothelial cells, to form grafts and dramatically suppressed local angiogenesis. In addition, highly efficient radioiodination of MORAb-004 did not impair its affinity for hTEM1, and [ (124)I]-MORAb-004-PET enabled non-invasive visualization of tumors enriched with hTEM1-positive, but not hTEM1 negative vasculature with high degree of specificity and sensitivity. Conclusion: The development of a new robust endothelial graft model expressing human tumor vascular proteins will help accelerate the development of novel theranostics targeting the tumor vasculature, which exhibit affinity specifically to human targets but not their murine counterparts. Our results also demonstrate the theranostic potential of MORAb-004 as PET imaging tracer and naked antibody therapy for TEM1-positive tumor.
    Cancer biology & therapy 02/2014; 15(4). · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor endothelial marker 1 (TEM1/endosialin) is a tumor vascular marker highly overexpressed in multiple human cancers with minimal expression in normal adult tissue. In this study, we report the preparation and evaluation of (124)I-MORAb-004, a humanized monoclonal antibody targeting an extracellular epitope of human TEM1 (hTEM1), for its ability to specifically and sensitively detect vascular cells expressing hTEM1 in vivo. MORAb-004 was directly iodinated with (125)I and (124)I, and in vitro binding and internalization parameters were characterized. The in vivo behavior of radioiodinated MORAb-004 was characterized in mice bearing subcutaneous ID8 tumors enriched with mouse endothelial cells expressing hTEM1 and by biodistribution and small-animal immuno-PET studies. MORAb-004 was radiolabeled with high efficiency and isolated in high purity. In vitro studies demonstrated specific and sensitive binding of MORAb-004 to MS1 mouse endothelial cells expressing hTEM1, with no binding to control MS1 cells. (125)I-MORAb-004 and (124)I-MORAb-004 both had an immunoreactivity of approximately 90%. In vivo biodistribution experiments revealed rapid, highly specific and sensitive uptake of MORAb-004 in MS1-TEM1 tumors at 4 h (153.2 ± 22.2 percentage injected dose per gram [%ID/g]), 24 h (127.1 ± 42.9 %ID/g), 48 h (130.3 ± 32.4 %ID/g), 72 h (160.9 ± 32.1 %ID/g), and 6 d (10.7 ± 1.8 %ID/g). Excellent image contrast was observed with (124)I-immuno-PET. MORAb-004 uptake was statistically higher in TEM1-positive tumors than in control tumors. Binding specificity was confirmed by blocking studies using excess nonlabeled MORAb-004. In our preclinical model, with hTEM1 exclusively expressed on engineered murine endothelial cells that integrate into the tumor vasculature, (124)I-MORAb-004 displays high tumor-to-background tissue contrast for detection of hTEM1 in easily accessible tumor vascular compartments. These studies strongly suggest the clinical utility of (124)I-MORAb-004 immuno-PET in assessing TEM1 tumor-status.
    Journal of Nuclear Medicine 02/2014; · 5.77 Impact Factor
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    Dataset: supp legens
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    Dataset: supp table
  • Pedro Romero, George Coukos
    European Journal of Immunology 02/2014; 44(2):318-20. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) infiltrate into sites of neovascularization in adult tissues and mature into functional blood endothelial cells (BECs) during a process called vasculogenesis. Human marrow-derived EPCs have recently been reported to display a mixed myeloid and lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) phenotype during inflammation-induced angiogenesis; however, their role in cancer remains poorly understood. We report the in vitro differentiation of human cord blood CD133(+)CD34(+) progenitors into podoplanin(+) cells expressing both myeloid markers (CD11b, CD14) and the canonical LEC markers vascular endothelium growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR-3), lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor 1 (LYVE-1), and prospero homeobox 1 (PROX-1). These podoplanin(+) cells displayed sprouting behavior comparable to that of LECs in vitro and a dual hemangiogenic and lymphangiogenic activity in vivo in an endothelial cell sprouting assay and corneal vascularization assay, respectively. Furthermore, these cells expressed vascular endothelium growth factor (VEGF) family members A, -C, and -D. Thus, bone-marrow derived EPCs stimulate hemangiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis through their ability to differentiate into LECs and to produce angiogenic factors. Importantly, plasma from patients with breast cancer induced differentiation of CD34(+) cord blood progenitors into hemangiogenic and lymphangiogenic CD11b(+) myeloid cells, whereas plasma from healthy women did not have this effect. Consistent with these findings, circulating CD11b(+) cells from breast cancer patients, but not from healthy women, displayed a similar dual angiogenic activity. Taken together, our results show that marrow-derived EPCs become hemangiogenic and lymphangiogenic upon exposure to cancer plasma. These newly identified functions of bone-marrow derived EPCs are expected to influence the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.
    Oncoimmunology. 01/2014; 3:e29080.
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    ABSTRACT: Conventional chemotherapy of ovarian cancer often fails because of initiation of drug resistance and/or side effects and trace of untouched remaining cancerous cells. This highlights an urgent need for advanced targeted therapies for effective remediation of the disease using a cytotoxic agent with immunomodulatory effects, such as shikonin (SHK). Based on preliminary experiments, we found SHK to be profoundly toxic in ovarian epithelial cancer cells (OVCAR-5 and ID8 cells) as well as in normal ovarian IOSE-398 cells, endothelial MS1 cells, and lymphocytes. To limit its cytotoxic impact solely to tumor cells within the tumor microenvironment (TME), we aimed to engineer SHK as polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) with targeting moiety toward tumor microvasculature. To this end, using single/double emulsion solvent evaporation/diffusion technique with sonication, we formulated biodegradable NPs of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) loaded with SHK. The surface of NPs was further decorated with solubilizing agent polyethylene glycol (PEG) and tumor endothelial marker 1 (TEM1)/endosialin-targeting antibody (Ab) through carbodiimide/N-hydroxysuccinimide chemistry. Having characterized the physicochemical and morphological properties of NPs, we studied their drug-release profiles using various kinetic models. The biological impact of NPs was also evaluated in tumor-associated endothelial MS1 cells, primary lymphocytes, and epithelial ovarian cancer OVCAR-5 cells. Based on particle size analysis and electron microscopy, the engineered NPs showed a smooth spherical shape with size range of 120 to 250 nm and zeta potential value of -30 to -40 mV. Drug entrapment efficiency was ~80%-90%, which was reduced to ~50%-60% upon surface decoration with PEG and Ab. The liberation of SHK from NPs showed a sustained-release profile that was best fitted with Wagner log-probability model. Fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry analysis showed active interaction of Ab-armed NPs with TEM1-positive MS1 cells, but not with TEM1-negative MS1 cells. While exposure of the PEGylated NPs for 2 hours was not toxic to lymphocytes, long-term exposure of the Ab-armed and PEGylated NPs was significantly toxic to TEM1-positive MS1 cells and OVCAR-5 cells. Based on these findings, we propose SHK-loaded Ab-armed PEGylated PLGA NPs as a novel nanomedicine for targeted therapy of solid tumors.
    International Journal of Nanomedicine 01/2014; 9:1855-1870. · 4.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tumor-infiltrating macrophages typically promote angiogenesis while suppressing antitumoral T cell responses. In this issue of Cancer Cell, Klug and colleagues report that clinically-feasible, low-dose irradiation redirects macrophage differentiation from a tumor-promoting/immunosuppressive state to one that enables cytotoxic T cells to infiltrate tumors and kill cancer cells, rendering immunotherapy successful in mice.
    Cancer cell 11/2013; 24(5):559-561. · 25.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have recently reported that the PD-1 and CTLA4 signaling pathways are active in both effector and regulatory T cells, causing profound immune dysfunctions in the tumor microenvironment. In line with this notion, the dual blockade of PD-1- and CTLA4-conveyed signals may exert robust therapeutic effects. Here, we discuss the mechanisms possibly underlying such a synergic interaction.
    Oncoimmunology. 10/2013; 2(10):e25912.
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    ABSTRACT: Up-regulation of CD137 (4-1BB) on recently activated CD8+ T-cells has been used to identify rare viral or tumor antigen-specific T-cells from peripheral blood. Here, we evaluated the immunobiology of CD137 in human cancer and the utility of a CD137-positive separation methodology for the identification and enrichment of fresh tumor-reactive tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) or tumor-associated lymphocytes (TAL) from ascites for use in adoptive immunotherapy. TILs from resected ovarian cancer or melanoma were measured for surface CD137expression directly or after overnight incubation in the presence of tumor cells and homeostatic cytokines. CD137pos TILs were sorted and evaluated for anti-tumor activity in vitro and in vivo. Fresh ovarian TILs and TALs naturally expressed higher levels of CD137 than circulating T-cells. An HLA-dependent increase in CD137 expression was observed following incubation of fresh enzyme-digested tumor or ascites in IL-7 and IL-15 cytokines, but not IL-2. Enriched CD137pos TILs, but not PD-1pos or PD-1neg CD137neg cells, possessed autologous tumor-reactivity in vitro and in vivo. In melanoma studies, all MART-1-specific CD8+ TILs up-regulated CD137 expression after incubation with HLA-matched, MART-expressing cancer cells and antigen-specific effector function was restricted to the CD137pos subset in vitro. CD137pos TILs also mediated superior anti-tumor effects in vivo, compared to CD137neg TILs. Our findings reveal a role for the TNFR-family member CD137 in the immunobiology of human cancer where it is preferentially expressed on tumor-reactive subset of TILs, thus rationalizing its agonistic engagement in vivo and its use in TIL selection for adoptive immunotherapy trials.
    Clinical Cancer Research 09/2013; · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recombinant interleukin (IL)-18 (SB-485232) is an immunostimulatory cytokine, with shown antitumor activity in combination with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) in preclinical models. This phase I study evaluated the safety, tolerability, and biologic activity of SB-485232 administered in combination with PLD in subjects with recurrent ovarian cancer. The protocol comprised four cycles of PLD (40 mg/m(2)) on day 1 every 28 days, in combination with SB-485232 at increasing doses (1, 3, 10, 30, and 100 μg/kg) on days 2 and 9 of each cycle, to be administered over five subject cohorts, followed by discretionary PLD monotherapy. Sixteen subjects were enrolled. One subject withdrew due to PLD hypersensitivity. Most subjects (82%) were platinum-resistant or refractory, and had received a median of three or more prior chemotherapy regimens. SB-485232 up to 100 μg/kg with PLD had an acceptable safety profile. Common drug-related adverse events were grade 1 or 2 (no grade 4 or 5 adverse events). Concomitant PLD administration did not attenuate the biologic activity of IL-18, with maximal SB-485232 biologic activity already observed at 3 μg/kg. Ten of 16 enrolled subjects (63%) completed treatment, whereas five (31%) subjects progressed on treatment. A 6% partial objective response rate and a 38% stable disease rate were observed. We provide pilot data suggesting that SB-485232 at the 3 μg/kg dose level in combination with PLD is safe and biologically active. This combination warrants further study in a phase II trial. Cancer Immunol Res; 1(3); 168-78. ©2013 AACR.
    Cancer immunology research. 09/2013; 1(3):168-78.
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    ABSTRACT: The tumor microenvironment mediates induction of the immunosuppressive programmed death-1 (PD-1) pathway, targeted interventions against which can help restore antitumor immunity. To gain insight into these responses, we studied the interaction between PD-1 expressed on T cells and its ligands (PD-1:PD-L1, PD-1:PD-L2, and PD-L1:B7.1) expressed on other cells in the tumor microenvironment, using a syngeneic orthotopic mouse model of epithelial ovarian cancer (ID8). Exhaustion of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) correlated with expression of PD-1 ligands by tumor cells and tumor-derived myeloid cells, including macrophages (TAM), dendritic cells (DC) and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC). When combined with GVAX or FVAX vaccination (consisting of irradiated ID8 cells expressing GM-CSF or FLT3 ligand) and co-stimulation by agonistic α4-1BB or TLR 9 ligand, antibody mediated blockade of PD-1 or PD-L1 triggered rejection of ID8 tumors in 75% of tumor-bearing mice. This therapeutic effect was associated with increased proliferation and function of tumor antigen-specific effector CD8+ T cells, inhibition of suppressive T regulatory cells (Tregs) and MDSC, upregulation of effector T cell signaling molecules and generation of T memory precursor cells. Overall, PD-1/PD-L1 blockade enhanced the amplitude of tumor immunity by reprogramming suppressive and stimulatory signals that yielded more powerful cancer control.
    Cancer Research 08/2013; · 9.28 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

10k Citations
1,215.92 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013–2014
    • University of Lausanne
      Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
    • Tabriz University of Medical Sciences
      • Research Center for Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology
      Tabrīz, East Azarbaijan, Iran
  • 1998–2014
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • • Perelman School of Medicine
      • • Ovarian Cancer Research Center
      • • Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology
      • • Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health
      • • Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 1998–2013
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2012
    • Democritus University of Thrace
      • Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (MBG)
      Komotiní, Anatoliki Makedonia kai Thraki, Greece
    • University Hospital of Lausanne
      Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
  • 2011
    • Wistar Institute
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2009
    • Tulane University
      • Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology
      New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 2007–2009
    • University of Michigan
      • Department of Surgery
      Ann Arbor, MI, United States
  • 2008
    • Ohio University
      • Department of Biomedical Sciences
      Athens, OH, United States
  • 2003–2007
    • Treatment Research Institute, Philadelphia PA
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2004
    • Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans
      New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
  • 1999
    • McGill University
      • Department of Surgery
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada