Cancer vaccination may be our best and most benign option for preventing or treating metastatic cancer. However, a real breakthrough is hampered by immune suppression in the tumor microenvironment (TME). In this study, we analyzed whether cyclic di-guanylate (c-di-GMP), a ligand for stimulator of interferon genes (STING), could overcome immune suppression and improve vaccination against metastatic breast cancer. Mice with metastatic breast cancer (4T1 model) were therapeutically immunized with an attenuated Listeria monocytogenes (LM)-based vaccine, expressing tumor-associated antigen Mage-b (LM-Mb), followed by multiple low doses of c-di-GMP (0.01 nmol). This resulted in a striking and near elimination of all metastases. Experiments revealed that c-di-GMP targets myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and tumor cells. Low doses of c-di-GMP significantly increased the production of IL-12 by MDSC, in correlation with improved T cell responses to Mage-b, while high dose of c-di-GMP (range 15-150 nmol) activated caspase-3 in the 4T1 tumor cells and killed the tumor cells directly. Based on these results we tested one administration of high dose c-di-GMP (150 nmol) followed by repeated administrations of low dose c-di-GMP (0.01 nmol) in the 4T1 model, and found equal efficacy compared to the combination of LM-Mb and c-di-GMP. This correlated with a mechanism of improved CD8 T cell responses to tumor-associated antigens (TAA) Mage-b and Survivin, most likely through cross-presentation of these TAA from c-di-GMP-killed 4T1 tumor cells, and through c-di-GMP-activated TAA-specific T cells. Our results demonstrate that activation of STING-dependent pathways by c-di-GMP is highly attractive for cancer immunotherapy.
- Received August 13, 2013.
- Revision received April 28, 2014.
- Accepted May 13, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014, American Association for Cancer Research.