Background: Ewing sarcoma patients have a poor prognosis despite multimodal therapy. Integration of combination immunotherapeutic strategies into first-/second-line regimens represents promising treatment options, particularly for patients with intrinsic or acquired resistance to conventional therapies. We evaluated the susceptibility of Ewing sarcoma to natural killer cell-based combination immunotherapy, by assessing the capacity of histone deacetylase inhibitors to improve immune recognition and sensitize for natural killer cell cytotoxicity.
Methods: Using flow cytometry, ELISA and immunohistochemistry, expression of natural killer cell receptor ligands was assessed in chemotherapy-sensitive/-resistant Ewing sarcoma cell lines, plasma and tumours. Natural killer cell cytotoxicity was evaluated in Chromium release assays. Using ATM/ATR inhibitor caffeine, the contribution of the DNA damage response pathway to histone deacetylase inhibitor-induced ligand expression was assessed.
Results: Despite comparable expression of natural killer cell receptor ligands, chemotherapy-resistant Ewing sarcoma exhibited reduced susceptibility to resting natural killer cells. Interleukin-15-activation of natural killer cells overcame this reduced sensitivity. Histone deacetylase inhibitor-pretreatment induced NKG2D-ligand expression in an ATM/ATR-dependent manner and sensitized for NKG2D-dependent cytotoxicity (2/4 cell lines). NKG2D-ligands were expressed in vivo, regardless of chemotherapy-response and disease stage. Soluble NKG2D-ligand plasma concentrations did not differ between patients and controls.
Conclusion: Our data provide a rationale for combination immunotherapy involving immune effector and target cell manipulation in first-/second-line treatment regimens for Ewing sarcoma.