The last several years have witnessed exciting progress in the development of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. This has been due in great part to the development of so-called checkpoint blockade. That is, antibodies that block inhibitory receptors such as CTLA-4 and PD-1 and thus unleash antigen-specific immune responses against tumors. It is clear that tumors evade the immune response by usurping pathways that play a role in negatively regulating normal immune responses. In this regard, adenosine in the immune microenvironment leading to the activation of the A2a receptor has been shown to represent one such negative feedback loop. Indeed, the tumor microenvironment has relatively high concentrations of adenosine. To this end, blocking A2a receptor activation has the potential to markedly enhance anti-tumor immunity in mouse models. This review will present data demonstrating the ability of A2a receptor blockade to enhance tumor vaccines, checkpoint blockade and adoptive T cell therapy. Also, as several recent studies have demonstrated that under certain conditions A2a receptor blockade can enhance tumor progression, we will also explore the complexities of adenosine signaling in the immune response. Despite important nuances to the A2a receptor pathway that require further elucidation, studies to date strongly support the development of A2a receptor antagonists (some of which have already been tested in phase III clinical trials for Parkinson Disease) as novel modalities in the immunotherapy armamentarium.
Keywords: A2a adenosine receptor; A2aR, adenosine A2a receptor; APC, antigen presenting cell; CTLA-4, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4; DLBCL, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; Hif1-alpha, hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha; Immune checkpoint; Immunotherapy; LAG-3, lymphocyte-activation gene 3; NSCLC, non-small cell lung cancer; ORR, overall response rate; OS, overall survival; PD-1; PD-1, programmed cell death 1; PD-L1, programmed cell death ligand 1; T cell; TFS, tumor free survival; TIM-3, T-cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain 3; Treg, regulatory T cell; Tumor.