Stromal Modulation Reverses Primary Resistance to Immune Checkpoint Blockade in Pancreatic Cancer

ACS Nano

Zhao J, Xiao Z, Li T, Chen H, Yuan Y, Wang YA, Hsiao CH, Chow DS, Overwijk WW and Li C.

ACS Nano. 2018 Oct 23;12(10):9881-9893. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.8b02481


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains one of the most difficult cancers to treat. It is refractory to most existing therapies, including immunotherapies, due to the presence of an excessive desmoplastic stroma, which restricts penetration of drugs and cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. Stromal modulation has shown promising results in the enhancement of immune checkpoint blockade treatment in PDAC. We demonstrate here effective stromal modulation by a polymeric micelle-based nanoformulation to codeliver a sonic hedgehog inhibitor (cyclopamine, abbreviated as CPA) and a cytotoxic chemotherapy drug (paclitaxel, abbreviated as PTX). The formulation, M-CPA/PTX, modulated the PDAC stroma by increasing the intratumoral vasculature density, which then promoted the tumor infiltration by cytotoxic CD8+T cells without depletion of tumor-restraining α-smooth muscle action-positive fibroblasts and type I collage in the stroma. The combination of M-CPA/PTX and the PD-1 checkpoint blockade significantly prolonged animal survival in an orthotopic murine PDAC model as well as a genetically engineered mouse model of PDAC. The superior antitumor efficacy was mediated by enhanced tumor infiltration of CD8+ T cells without concomitant infiltration of suppressive regulatory T cells or myeloid-derived suppressor cells and by the coordinated action of PTX and interferon-gamma. Our results demonstrate that stroma-modulating nanoformulations are a promising approach to potentiate immunecheckpoint blockade therapy of pancreatic cancer.