Topoisomerase inhibitors modulate expression of melanocytic antigens and enhance T cell recognition of tumor cells

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2011 Jan;60(1):133-44. doi: 10.1007/s00262-010-0926-x. Epub 2010 Oct 30.


While there are many obstacles to immune destruction of autologous tumors, there is mounting evidence that tumor antigen recognition does occur. Unfortunately, immune recognition rarely controls clinically significant tumors. Even the most effective immune response will fail if tumors fail to express target antigens. Importantly, reduced tumor antigen expression often results from changes in gene regulation rather than irrevocable loss of genetic information. Such perturbations are often reversible by specific compounds or biological mediators, prompting a search for agents with improved antigen-enhancing properties. Some recent findings have suggested that certain conventional chemotherapeutic agents may have beneficial properties for cancer treatment beyond their direct cytotoxicities against tumor cells. Accordingly, we screened an important subset of these agents, topoisomerase inhibitors, for their effects on antigen levels in tumor cells. Our analyses demonstrate upregulation of antigen expression in a variety of melanoma cell lines and gliomas in response to nanomolar levels of certain specific topoisomerase inhibitors. To demonstrate the ability of CD8+ T cells to recognize tumors, we assayed cytokine secretion in T cells transfected with T cell receptors directed against Melan-A/MART-1 antigen. Three days of daunorubicin treatment resulted in enhanced antigen expression by tumor cells, in turn inducing co-cultured antigen-specific T cells to secrete Interleukin-2 and Interferon-γ. These results demonstrate that specific topoisomerase inhibitors can augment melanoma antigen production, suggesting that a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy may be of potential value in the treatment of otherwise insensitive cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigen Presentation / drug effects
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • DNA Topoisomerases / metabolism
  • Daunorubicin / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Glioma / immunology
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Glioma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-2 / genetics
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • MART-1 Antigen / genetics
  • MART-1 Antigen / immunology
  • MART-1 Antigen / metabolism*
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Interleukin-2
  • MART-1 Antigen
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Interferon-gamma
  • DNA Topoisomerases
  • Daunorubicin