Purpose: Recent advances in immunotherapy of advanced human cancers underscored the need to address and eliminate tumor immune evasion. The myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are important inhibitors of T-cell responses in solid tumors, such as prostate cancers. However, targeting MDSCs proved challenging due to their phenotypic heterogeneity.
Experimental design: Myeloid cell populations were evaluated using flow cytometry on blood samples, functional assays, and immunohistochemical/immunofluorescent stainings on specimens from healthy subjects, localized and metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer patients.
Results: Here, we identify a population of Lin(-)CD15(HI)CD33(LO) granulocytic MDSCs that accumulate in patients’ circulation during prostate cancer progression from localized to metastatic disease. The prostate cancer-associated MDSCs potently inhibit autologous CD8(+) T cells’ proliferation and production of IFNγ and granzyme-B. The circulating MDSCs have high levels of activated STAT3, which is a central immune checkpoint regulator. The granulocytic pSTAT3(+) cells are also detectable in patients’ prostate tissues. We previously generated an original strategy to silence genes specifically in Toll-like Receptor-9 (TLR9) positive myeloid cells using CpG-siRNA conjugates. We demonstrate that human granulocytic MDSCs express TLR9 and rapidly internalize naked CpG-STAT3siRNA, thereby silencing STAT3 expression. STAT3 blocking abrogates immunosuppressive effects of patients-derived MDSCs on effector CD8(+) T cells. These effects depended on reduced expression and enzymatic activity of Arginase-1, a downstream STAT3 target gene and a potent T-cell inhibitor.
Conclusions: Overall, we demonstrate the accumulation of granulocytic MDSCs with prostate cancer progression and the feasibility of using TLR9-targeted STAT3siRNA delivery strategy to alleviate MDSC-mediated immunosuppression.
By Dewan M S Hossain, Sumanta K Pal, Dayson Moreira, Priyanka Duttagupta, Qifang Zhang, Haejung Won, Jeremy Jones, Massimo D’Apuzzo, Stephen Forman & Marcin Kortylewski