Colocalized targeting of TGF-β and PD-L1 by bintrafusp alfa elicits distinct antitumor responses.
Journal for immunotherapy of cancer
BACKGROUND:Bintrafusp alfa (BA) is a bifunctional fusion protein designed for colocalized, simultaneous inhibition of two immunosuppressive pathways, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), within the tumor microenvironment (TME). We hypothesized that targeting PD-L1 to the tumor by BA colocalizes the TGF-β trap (TGF-βRII) to the TME, enabling it to sequester TGF-β in the tumor more effectively than systemic TGF-β blockade, thereby enhancing antitumor activity. METHODS:Multiple technologies were used to characterize the TGF-β trap binding avidity. BA versus combinations of anti-PD-L1 and TGF-β trap or the pan-TGF-β antibody fresolimumab were compared in proliferation and two-way mixed lymphocyte reaction assays. Immunophenotyping of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and RNA sequencing (RNAseq) analysis assessing stromal and immune landscape following BA or the combination therapy were performed in MC38 tumors. TGF-β and PD-L1 co-expression and their associated gene signatures in MC38 tumors and human lung carcinoma tissue were studied with single-cell RNAseq (scRNAseq) and immunostaining. BA-induced internalization, degradation, and depletion of TGF-β were investigated in vitro. RESULTS:BA and fresolimumab had comparable intrinsic binding to TGF-β1, but there was an ~80× avidity-based increase in binding affinity with BA. BA inhibited cell proliferation in TGF-β-dependent and PD-L1-expressing cells more potently than TGF-β trap or fresolimumab. Compared with the combination of anti-PD-L1 and TGF-β trap or fresolimumab, BA enhanced T cell activation in vitro and increased TILs in MC38 tumors, which correlated with efficacy. BA induced distinct gene expression in the TME compared with the combination therapy, including upregulation of immune-related gene signatures and reduced activities in TGF-β-regulated pathways, such as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, extracellular matrix deposition, and fibrosis. Regulatory T cells, macrophages, immune cells of myeloid lineage, and fibroblasts were key PD-L1/TGF-β1 co-expressing cells in the TME. scRNAseq analysis suggested BA modulation of the macrophage phenotype, which was confirmed by histological assessment. PD-L1/TGF-β1 co-expression was also seen in human tumors. Finally, BA induced TGF-β1 internalization and degradation in the lysosomes. CONCLUSION:BA more effectively blocks TGF-β by targeting TGF-β trap to the tumor via PD-L1 binding. Such colocalized targeting elicits distinct and superior antitumor responses relative to single agent combination therapy.
Lipid-Associated Macrophages Are Induced by Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts and Mediate Immune Suppression in Breast Cancer.
Tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) play a detrimental role in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In-depth analysis of TAM characteristics and interactions with stromal cells, such as cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF), could provide important biological and therapeutic insights. Here we identify at the single-cell level a monocyte-derived STAB1+TREM2high lipid-associated macrophage (LAM) subpopulation with immune suppressive capacities that is expanded in patients resistant to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB). Genetic depletion of this LAM subset in mice suppressed TNBC tumor growth. Flow cytometry and bulk RNA sequencing data demonstrated that coculture with TNBC-derived CAFs led to reprogramming of blood monocytes towards immune suppressive STAB1+TREM2high LAMs, which inhibit T-cell activation and proliferation. Cell-to-cell interaction modeling and assays in vitro demonstrated the role of the inflammatory CXCL12-CXCR4 axis in CAF-myeloid cell cross-talk and recruitment of monocytes in tumor sites. Altogether, these data suggest an inflammation model whereby monocytes recruited to the tumor via the CAF-driven CXCL12-CXCR4 axis acquire protumorigenic LAM capacities to support an immunosuppressive microenvironment. SIGNIFICANCE:This work identifies a novel lipid-associated macrophage subpopulation with immune suppressive functions, offering new leads for therapeutic interventions in triple-negative breast cancer.
Identification and Characterization of Cancer-Associated Fibroblast Subpopulations in Lung Adenocarcinoma.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) reside within the tumor microenvironment, facilitating cancer progression and metastasis via direct and indirect interactions with cancer cells and other stromal cell types. CAFs are composed of heterogeneous subpopulations of activated fibroblasts, including myofibroblastic, inflammatory, and immunosuppressive CAFs. In this study, we sought to identify subpopulations of CAFs isolated from human lung adenocarcinomas and describe their transcriptomic and functional characteristics through single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and subsequent bioinformatics analyses. Cell trajectory analysis of combined total and THY1 + CAFs revealed two branching points with five distinct branches. Based on Gene Ontology analysis, we denoted Branch 1 as "immunosuppressive", Branch 2 as "neoantigen presenting", Branch 4 as "myofibroblastic", and Branch 5 as "proliferative" CAFs. We selected representative branch-specific markers and measured their expression levels in total and THY1 + CAFs. We also investigated the effects of these markers on CAF activity under coculture with lung cancer cells. This study describes novel subpopulations of CAFs in lung adenocarcinoma, highlighting their potential value as therapeutic targets.
Lung fibroblasts facilitate pre-metastatic niche formation by remodeling the local immune microenvironment.
Primary tumors are drivers of pre-metastatic niche formation, but the coordination by the secondary organ toward metastatic dissemination is underappreciated. Here, by single-cell RNA sequencing and immunofluorescence, we identified a population of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2)-expressing adventitial fibroblasts that remodeled the lung immune microenvironment. At steady state, fibroblasts in the lungs produced prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which drove dysfunctional dendritic cells (DCs) and suppressive monocytes. This lung-intrinsic stromal program was propagated by tumor-associated inflammation, particularly the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β, supporting a pre-metastatic niche. Genetic ablation of Ptgs2 (encoding COX-2) in fibroblasts was sufficient to reverse the immune-suppressive phenotypes of lung-resident myeloid cells, resulting in heightened immune activation and diminished lung metastasis in multiple breast cancer models. Moreover, the anti-metastatic activity of DC-based therapy and PD-1 blockade was improved by fibroblast-specific Ptgs2 deletion or dual inhibition of PGE2 receptors EP2 and EP4. Collectively, lung-resident fibroblasts reshape the local immune landscape to facilitate breast cancer metastasis.
Tyrosine kinase inhibition alters intratumoral CD8+ T-cell subtype composition and activity.
Cancer immunology research
Targeted therapy with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) such as imatinib is effective in treating gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), but it is rarely curative. Despite the presence of a robust immune CD8+ T-cell infiltrate, combining a TKI with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) in advanced GIST has achieved only modest effects. To identify limitations imposed by imatinib on the antitumor immune response, we performed bulk RNA sequencing (RNAseq), single-cell RNAseq, and flow cytometry to phenotype CD8+ T-cell subsets in a genetically engineered mouse model of GIST. Imatinib reduced the frequency of effector CD8+ T cells and increased the frequency of naive CD8+ T cells within mouse GIST, which coincided with altered tumor chemokine production, CD8+ T-cell recruitment, and reduced CD8+ T-cell intracellular PI3K signaling. Imatinib also failed to induce intratumoral T-cell receptor (TCR) clonal expansion. Consistent with these findings, human GISTs sensitive to imatinib harbored fewer effector CD8+ T cells but more naïve CD8+ T cells. Combining an IL15 superagonist (IL15SA) with imatinib restored intratumoral effector CD8+ T-cell function and CD8+ T-cell intracellular PI3K signaling, resulting in greater tumor destruction. Combination therapy with IL15SA and ICB resulted in the greatest tumor killing and maintained an effector CD8+ T-cell population in the presence of imatinib. Our findings highlight the impact of oncogene inhibition on intratumoral CD8+ T cells and support the use of agonistic T-cell therapy during TKI and/or ICB administration.
Single cell RNA-seq reveals the CCL5/SDC1 receptor-ligand interaction between T cells and tumor cells in pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by the complex tumor microenvironment (TME), consisting of an abundance of stromal cells. Among them, tumor infiltrating T cells play a pivotal role in tumor progress. To identify the full spectrum and developmental trajectory of T cells and their crosstalk with tumor cells in PDAC, we conducted scRNA-seq analysis based on multiple datasets from our institution and open databases. We delineated the cellular landscape and transcriptional dynamics of T cells in PDAC. Through the inferCNV analysis and known tumor markers, the malignant ductal cells were identified. The inter-patients heterogeneity of tumor cells was also identified. After integrating T cells and malignant ductal cells, we found the CCL5-SDC1/4 receptor-ligand interactions between them. Furthermore, we demonstrated that CCL5 promoted tumor cells migration via interacting with SDC1 in vitro. Our findings pave the way for characterizing the heterogeneity and development trajectory of T cells, and cell-to-cell communications in TME of PDAC, which might provide a new target for immunotherapy.
Combined Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase/Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase and Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 Inhibition Uncovers Stromal Plasticity by Enriching for Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts With Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Like Features to Overcome Immunotherapy Resistance in Pancreatic Cancer.
BACKGROUND & AIMS:We have shown that reciprocally activated RAS/mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (MEK) and Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) pathways mediate therapeutic resistance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), while combined MEK and STAT3 inhibition (MEKi+STAT3i) overcomes such resistance and alters stromal architecture. We now determine whether MEKi+STAT3i reprograms the cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) and immune microenvironment to overcome resistance to immune checkpoint inhibition in PDAC. METHODS:CAF and immune cell transcriptomes in MEKi (trametinib)+STAT3i (ruxolitinib)-treated vs vehicle-treated Ptf1a;LSL-KrasTgfbr2 (PKT) tumors were examined via single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq). Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats associated protein 9 silencing of CAF-restricted Map2k1/Mek1 or Stat3, or both, enabled interrogation of CAF-dependent effects on immunologic remodeling in orthotopic models. Tumor growth, survival, and immune profiling via mass cytometry by time-of-flight were examined in PKT mice treated with vehicle, anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) monotherapy, and MEKi+STAT3i combined with anti-PD1. RESULTS:MEKi+STAT3i attenuates I16/Cxc11-expressing proinflammatory and Lrrc15-expressing myofibroblastic CAF phenotypes while enriching for Ly6a/Cd34-expressing CAFs exhibiting mesenchymal stem cell-like features via scRNAseq in PKT mice. This CAF plasticity is associated with M2-to-M1 reprogramming of tumor-associated macrophages, and enhanced trafficking of cluster of differentiation 8 T cells, which exhibit distinct effector transcriptional programs. These MEKi+STAT3i-induced effects appear CAF-dependent, because CAF-restricted Mek1/Stat3 silencing mitigates inflammatory-CAF polarization and myeloid infiltration in vivo. Addition of MEKi+STAT3i to PD-1 blockade not only dramatically improves antitumor responses and survival in PKT mice but also augments recruitment of activated/memory T cells while improving their degranulating and cytotoxic capacity compared with anti-PD-1 monotherapy. Importantly, treatment of a patient who has chemotherapy-refractory metastatic PDAC with MEKi (trametinib), STAT3i (ruxolitinib), and PD-1 inhibitor (nivolumab) yielded clinical benefit. CONCLUSIONS:Combined MEKi+STAT3i mitigates stromal inflammation and enriches for CAF phenotypes with mesenchymal stem cell-like properties to overcome immunotherapy resistance in PDAC.
Single-cell and spatial transcriptome analyses revealed cell heterogeneity and immune environment alternations in metastatic axillary lymph nodes in breast cancer.
Cancer immunology, immunotherapy : CII
BACKGROUND:Tumor heterogeneity plays essential roles in developing cancer therapies, including therapies for breast cancer (BC). In addition, it is also very important to understand the relationships between tumor microenvironments and the systematic immune environment. METHODS:Here, we performed single-cell, VDJ sequencing and spatial transcriptome analyses on tumor and adjacent normal tissue as well as axillar lymph nodes (LNs) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 8 BC patients. RESULTS:We found that myeloid cells exhibited environment-dependent plasticity, where a group of macrophages with both M1 and M2 signatures possessed high tumor specificity spatially and was associated with worse patient survival. Cytotoxic T cells in tumor sites evolved in a separate path from those in the circulatory system. T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires in metastatic LNs showed significant higher consistency with TCRs in tumor than those in nonmetastatic LNs and PBMCs, suggesting the existence of common neo-antigens across metastatic LNs and primary tumor cites. In addition, the immune environment in metastatic LNs had transformed into a tumor-like status, where pro-inflammatory macrophages and exhausted T cells were upregulated, accompanied by a decrease in B cells and neutrophils. Finally, cell interactions showed that cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) contributed most to shaping the immune-suppressive microenvironment, while CD8 cells were the most signal-responsive cells. CONCLUSIONS:This study revealed the cell structures of both micro- and macroenvironments, revealed how different cells diverged in related contexts as well as their prognostic capacities, and displayed a landscape of cell interactions with spatial information.
Serum levels of iCAF-derived osteoglycin predict favorable outcome in pancreatic cancer.
International journal of cancer
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by abundant stroma, the main cellular constituents of which are cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Stroma-targeting agents have been proposed to improve the poor outcome of current treatments. However, clinical trials using these agents showed disappointing results. Heterogeneity in the PDAC CAF population was recently delineated demonstrating that both tumor-promoting and tumor-suppressive activities co-exist in the stroma. Here, we aimed to identify biomarkers for the CAF population that contribute to a favorable outcome. RNA-sequencing reads from patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) were mapped to the human and mouse genome to allocate the expression of genes to the tumor or stroma. Survival meta-analysis for stromal genes was performed and applied to human protein atlas data to identify circulating biomarkers. The candidate protein was perturbed in co-cultures and assessed in existing and novel single-cell gene expression analysis from control, pancreatitis, pancreatitis-recovered and PDAC mouse models. Serum levels of the candidate biomarker were measured in two independent cohorts totaling 148 PDAC patients and related them to overall survival. Osteoglycin (OGN) was identified as a candidate serum prognostic marker. Single-cell analysis indicated that Ogn is derived from a subgroup of inflammatory CAFs. Ogn-expressing fibroblasts are distinct from resident healthy pancreatic stellate cells and arise during pancreatitis. Serum OGN levels were prognostic for favorable overall survival in two independent PDAC cohorts (HR = 0.47, P = .042 and HR = 0.53, P = .006). Altogether, we conclude that high circulating OGN levels inform on a previously unrecognized subgroup of CAFs and predict favorable outcomes in resectable PDAC.
Phenotype molding of stromal cells in the lung tumor microenvironment.
Lambrechts Diether,Wauters Els,Boeckx Bram,Aibar Sara,Nittner David,Burton Oliver,Bassez Ayse,Decaluwé Herbert,Pircher Andreas,Van den Eynde Kathleen,Weynand Birgit,Verbeken Erik,De Leyn Paul,Liston Adrian,Vansteenkiste Johan,Carmeliet Peter,Aerts Stein,Thienpont Bernard
Cancer cells are embedded in the tumor microenvironment (TME), a complex ecosystem of stromal cells. Here, we present a 52,698-cell catalog of the TME transcriptome in human lung tumors at single-cell resolution, validated in independent samples where 40,250 additional cells were sequenced. By comparing with matching non-malignant lung samples, we reveal a highly complex TME that profoundly molds stromal cells. We identify 52 stromal cell subtypes, including novel subpopulations in cell types hitherto considered to be homogeneous, as well as transcription factors underlying their heterogeneity. For instance, we discover fibroblasts expressing different collagen sets, endothelial cells downregulating immune cell homing and genes coregulated with established immune checkpoint transcripts and correlating with T-cell activity. By assessing marker genes for these cell subtypes in bulk RNA-sequencing data from 1,572 patients, we illustrate how these correlate with survival, while immunohistochemistry for selected markers validates them as separate cellular entities in an independent series of lung tumors. Hence, in providing a comprehensive catalog of stromal cells types and by characterizing their phenotype and co-optive behavior, this resource provides deeper insights into lung cancer biology that will be helpful in advancing lung cancer diagnosis and therapy.