Heterogeneity in tumor immune responses is a poorly understood yet critical parameter for successful immunotherapy. In two doxycycline-inducible models where oncogenic H-RasG12V is targeted either to the epidermal basal/stem cell layer with a Keratin14-rtTA transgene (K14Ras), or committed progenitor/suprabasal cells with an Involucrin-tTA transgene (InvRas) we observed strikingly distinct tumor immune responses. On threshold doxycycline levels yielding similar Ras expression, tumor latency, and numbers, tumors from K14Ras mice had an immunosuppressed microenvironment while InvRas tumors had a pro-inflammatory microenvironment. On a Rag1-/- background InvRas mice developed fewer and smaller tumors that regressed over time while K14Ras mice developed more tumors with shorter latency than Rag1+/+ controls. Adoptive transfer and depletion studies revealed that B and CD4 T cell cooperation was critical for tumor yield, lymphocyte polarization, and tumor immune phenotype in Rag1+/+ mice of both models. Coculture of tumor-conditioned B cells with CD4 T cells implicated direct contact for Th1 and regulatory T cell (Treg) polarization, and CD40-CD40L for Th1, Th2, and Treg generation, a response not observed from splenic B cells. Anti-CD40L caused regression of InvRas tumors but enhanced growth in K14Ras, while a CD40 agonist mAb had opposite effects in each tumor model. These data show that position of tumor initiating cells within a stratified squamous epithelial tissue provokes distinct B and CD4 T cell interactions, which establish unique tumor microenvironments that regulate tumor development and response to immunotherapy.
- Received October 31, 2016.
- Revision received December 30, 2016.
- Accepted January 12, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.