Immunotherapy is revolutionizing cancer treatment, but success is limited to a fraction of patients. Tumor immunosurveillance and immunotherapy relies on presentation of tumor-associated antigens by conventional dendritic cells type 1 (cDC1). However, tumors develop mechanisms to avoid immune recognition such as downregulation of antigen presentation and exclusion of cDC1. We have previously demonstrated that enforced expression of the transcription factors PU.1, IRF8 and BATF3 (PIB) imposes the lineage conversion of fibroblasts to cDC1 by direct cell reprogramming. Here, we hypothesize that PIB reprograms cancer cells directly into functional tumor-antigen presenting cells (tumor-APCs) with enhanced immunogenicity. First, we show that enforced expression of PIB in a wide range of murine and human cancer cells from different origins is sufficient to induce surface expression of hematopoietic and DC-lineage specific markers (CD45 and Clec9a). Moreover, reprogramming restored the expression of antigen presentation complexes (MHC-I and MHC-II) and activated the expression of the co-stimulatory molecules CD40, CD80 and CD86, required for productive T cell activation. Transcriptomic analysis using mRNA-sequencing showed that PIB imposes a global cDC1 gene signature and an antigen presentation program in tumor cells as early as day 3 of reprogramming, overriding the original cancer cell program. Furthermore, Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin (ATAC) sequencing analysis revealed that PIB-mediated cDC1 reprogramming elicited rapid epigenetic remodeling followed by gradual rewiring of transcriptional program and stabilization of cDC1 identity. Functionally, tumor-APCs present endogenous antigens on MHC-I, prime naïve CD8+ T and become prone to CD8+ T cell mediated killing. Tumor-APCs secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-12) and chemoattractants (CXCL10), uptake and process exogenous antigens, phagocyte dead cells, and cross-present exogenous antigens to activate naïve T-cells. In addition, reprogrammed tumor cells harboring TP53, KRAS and PTEN mutations downregulated proliferation and showed impaired tumorigenicity in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, we show that intra-tumoral injection of reprogrammed tumor-APCs elicited tumour growth control in vivo alongside increasing infiltration of CD8+ T and NK cells in B16-OVA tumors. Finally, we showed that our approach can be employed to convert primary cancer cells derived from melanoma, lung, breast, pancreatic, urothelial, and head and neck carcinomas as well as cancer associated fibroblasts. In summary, we provide evidence for the direct reprogramming of tumor cells into immunogenic cDC1-like cells, with restored antigen presentation capacity and the ability to reinstate anti-tumor immunity. Our approach elicits the immune system against cancer and counteract major tumor evasion mechanisms including tumor heterogeneity and impaired antigen presentation, laying the foundation for developing immunotherapeutic strategies based on the cellular reprogramming of human cancer cells.
TidskriftCancer immunology research
Nummer12 suppl
StatusPublished - 2022 dec. 1

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Cancer och onkologi


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