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The Injury Response to DNA Damage Promotes Anti-Tumor Immunity

By Ganapathy Sriram, Lauren Milling, Jung-Kuei Chen, Wuhbet Abraham, Erika D. Handly, Darrell J Irvine, Michael B. Yaffe

Posted 27 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.26.062216

Inhibition of immune checkpoints has shown promising results in the treatment of certain tumor types. However, the majority of cancers do not respond to immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) treatment, indicating the need to identify additional modalities that enhance the response to immune checkpoint blockade. In this study, we identified a tumor-tailored approach using ex-vivo DNA damaging chemotherapy-treated tumor cells as a live injured cell adjuvant. Using an optimized ex vivo system for dendritic cell-mediated T-cell IFN-γ induction in response to DNA-damaged tumor cells, we identified specific dose-dependent treatments with etoposide and mitoxantrone that markedly enhance IFN-γ production by T-cells. Unexpectedly, the immune-enhancing effects of DNA damage failed to correlate with known markers of immunogenic cell death or with the extent of apoptosis or necroptosis. Furthermore, dead tumor cells alone were not sufficient to promote DC cross-presentation and induce IFN-γ in T-cells. Instead, the enhanced immunogenicity resided in the fraction of injured cells that remained alive, and required signaling through the RIPK1, NF-kB and p38MAPK pathways. Direct in vivo translation of these findings was accomplished by intra-tumoral injection of ex vivo etoposide-treated tumor cells as an injured cell adjuvant, in combination with systemic anti-PD1/CTLA4 antibodies. This resulted in increased intra-tumoral CD103+ dendritic cells and circulating tumor antigen-specific CD8+ T-cells, leading to enhanced anti-tumor immune responses and improved survival. The effect was abrogated in BATF3-deficient mice indicating that BATF3+ DCs are required for appropriate T-cell stimulation by live but injured DNA-damaged tumor cells. Notably, injection of the free DNA-damaging drug directly into the tumor failed to elicit such an enhanced anti-tumor response as a consequence of simultaneous damage to dendritic cells and T-cells. Finally, the DNA damage induced injured cell adjuvant and systemic ICI combination, but not ICI alone, induced complete tumor regression in a subset of mice who were then able to reject tumor re-challenge, indicating induction of a long-lasting anti-tumor immunological memory by the injured cell adjuvant treatment in vivo. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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