In addition to playing a major role in tumor cell biology, p53 generates a microenvironment that promotes antitumor immune surveillance via tumor-associated macrophages. We examined whether increasing p53 signaling in the tumor microenvironment influences antitumor T cell immunity. Our findings indicate that increased p53 signaling induced either pharmacologically with APR-246 (eprenetapopt) or in p53-overexpressing transgenic mice can disinhibit antitumor T cell immunity and augment the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade. We demonstrated that increased p53 expression in tumor-associated macrophages induces canonical p53-associated functions such as senescence and activation of a p53-dependent senescence-associated secretory phenotype. This was linked with decreased expression of proteins associated with M2 polarization by tumor-associated macrophages. Our preclinical data led to the development of a clinical trial in patients with solid tumors combining APR-246 with pembrolizumab. Biospecimens from select patients participating in this ongoing trial showed that there was a suppression of M2-polarized myeloid cells and increase in T cell proliferation with therapy in those who responded to the therapy. Our findings, based on both genetic and a small molecule–based pharmacological approach, suggest that increasing p53 expression in tumor-associated macrophages reprograms the tumor microenvironment to augment the response to immune checkpoint blockade.
Arnab Ghosh, Judith Michels, Riccardo Mezzadra, Divya Venkatesh, Lauren Dong, Ricardo Gomez, Fadi Samaan, Yu-Jui Ho, Luis Felipe Campesato, Levi Mangarin, John Fak, Nathan Suek, Aliya Holland, Cailian Liu, Mohsen Abu-Akeel, Yonina Bykov, Hong Zhong, Kelly Fitzgerald, Sadna Budhu, Andrew Chow, Roberta Zappasodi, Katherine S. Panageas, Olivier de Henau, Marcus Ruscetti, Scott W. Lowe, Taha Merghoub, Jedd D. Wolchok