First published January 10, 2019 - More info
Immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive transfer of gene-engineered T cells have emerged as novel therapeutic modalities for hard-to-treat solid tumors; however, many patients are refractory to these immunotherapies, and the mechanisms underlying tumor immune resistance have not been fully elucidated. By comparing the tumor microenvironment of checkpoint inhibition-sensitive and -resistant murine solid tumors, we observed that the resistant tumors had low immunogenicity and lacked infiltration of CD8+ T cells at the tumor site. We identified antigen presentation by CD11b+F4/80+ tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) as a key factor correlated with immune resistance. In the resistant tumors, TAMs remained inactive and did not exert antigen-presenting activity. Targeted delivery of a long peptide antigen to TAMs by using a nano-sized hydrogel (nanogel) in the presence of a Toll-like receptor agonist activated TAMs, induced their antigen-presenting activity, and thereby transformed the resistant tumors into tumors sensitive to adaptive immune responses such as adoptive transfer of tumor-specific T cell receptor-engineered T cells. These results indicate that the status and function of TAMs have a significant impact on tumor immune sensitivity and also that manipulation of TAM functions would be an effective approach for improving the efficacy of immunotherapies.