Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma harbor T-cell inflamed and non-T-cell inflamed tumors. Despite this, only 20% of patients respond to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy. Lack of induction of innate immunity through pattern-recognition receptors such as the stimulator of interferon (IFN) genes (STING) receptor may represent a significant barrier to the development of effective antitumor immunity. Here, we demonstrate robust control of a T-cell inflamed (MOC1), but not non-T-cell inflamed (MOC2), model of head and neck cancer by activation of the STING pathway with the synthetic cyclic dinucleotide RP,RP dithio-c-di-GMP. Rejection or durable tumor control of MOC1 tumors was dependent upon a functional STING receptor and CD8 T lymphocytes. STING activation resulted in increased tumor microenvironment type 1 and type 2 IFN and greater expression of PD-1-pathway components in vivo. Established MOC1 tumors were rejected and distant tumors abscopally controlled, after adaptive immune resistance had been reversed by the addition of PD-L1 mAb. These findings suggest that PD-1-pathway blockade may reverse adaptive immune resistance following cyclic dinucleotide treatment, enhancing both local and systemic antitumor immunity.
- Received May 11, 2016.
- Revision received September 8, 2016.
- Accepted October 11, 2016.
- Copyright ©2016, American Association for Cancer Research.