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Therapeutically active RIG-I agonist induces immunogenic tumor cell killing in breast cancers


Elion DL , Jacobson ME , Hicks DJ , Rahman B , Sanchez V , Gonzalez-Ericsson PI , Fedorova O , Pyle AM , Wilson JT , Cook RS , . Cancer research. 2018 9 17; ().


Cancer immunotherapies that remove checkpoint restraints on adaptive immunity are gaining clinical momentum but have not achieved widespread success in breast cancers (BC), a tumor type considered poorly immunogenic and which harbors a decreased presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). Approaches that activate innate immunity in BC cells and the tumor microenvironment are of increasing interest, based on their ability to induce immunogenic tumor cell death, type I interferons (IFN), and lymphocyte-recruiting chemokines. In agreement with reports in other cancers, we observe loss, downregulation, or mutation of the innate viral nucleotide sensor retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I/DDX58) in only 1% of clinical breast cancers, suggesting potentially widespread applicability for therapeutic RIG-I agonists that activate innate immunity. This was tested using an engineered RIG-I agonist in a breast cancer cell panel representing each of three major clinical breast cancer subtypes. Treatment with RIG-I agonist resulted in upregulation and mitochondrial localization of RIG-I and activation of pro-inflammatory transcription factors STAT1 and NF-κB. RIG-I agonist triggered the extrinsic apoptosis pathway and pyroptosis, a highly immunogenic form of cell death in breast cancer cells. RIG-I agonist also induced expression of lymphocyte-recruiting chemokines and type I IFN, confirming that cell death and cytokine modulation occur in a tumor cell-intrinsic manner. Importantly, RIG-I activation in breast tumors increased tumor lymphocytes and decreased tumor growth and metastasis. Overall, these findings demonstrate successful therapeutic delivery of a synthetic RIG-I agonist to induce tumor cell killing and modulate the tumor microenvironment in vivo.