Sensitizing protective tumor microenvironments to antibody-mediated therapy

Cell. 2014 Jan 30;156(3):590-602. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.12.041.


Therapy-resistant microenvironments represent a major barrier toward effective elimination of disseminated malignancies. Here, we show that select microenvironments can underlie resistance to antibody-based therapy. Using a humanized model of treatment refractory B cell leukemia, we find that infiltration of leukemia cells into the bone marrow rewires the tumor microenvironment to inhibit engulfment of antibody-targeted tumor cells. Resistance to macrophage-mediated killing can be overcome by combination regimens involving therapeutic antibodies and chemotherapy. Specifically, the nitrogen mustard cyclophosphamide induces an acute secretory activating phenotype (ASAP), releasing CCL4, IL8, VEGF, and TNFα from treated tumor cells. These factors induce macrophage infiltration and phagocytic activity in the bone marrow. Thus, the acute induction of stress-related cytokines can effectively target cancer cells for removal by the innate immune system. This synergistic chemoimmunotherapeutic regimen represents a potent strategy for using conventional anticancer agents to alter the tumor microenvironment and promote the efficacy of targeted therapeutics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / immunology*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / therapy*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • Cytokines
  • Cyclophosphamide