Suppression of Type I IFN Signaling in Tumors Mediates Resistance to Anti-PD-1 Treatment That Can Be Overcome by Radiotherapy

Cancer Res. 2017 Feb 15;77(4):839-850. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-3142. Epub 2016 Nov 7.


Immune checkpoint therapies exhibit impressive efficacy in some patients with melanoma or lung cancer, but the lack of response in most cases presses the question of how general efficacy can be improved. In addressing this question, we generated a preclinical tumor model to study anti-PD-1 resistance by in vivo passaging of Kras-mutated, p53-deficient murine lung cancer cells (p53R172HΔg/+K-rasLA1/+ ) in a syngeneic host exposed to repetitive dosing with anti-mouse PD-1 antibodies. PD-L1 (CD274) expression did not differ between the resistant and parental tumor cells. However, the expression of important molecules in the antigen presentation pathway, including MHC class I and II, as well as β2-microglobulin, were significantly downregulated in the anti-PD-1-resistant tumors compared with parental tumors. Resistant tumors also contained fewer CD8+ (CD8α) and CD4+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and reduced production of IFNγ. Localized radiotherapy induced IFNβ production, thereby elevating MHC class I expression on both parental and resistant tumor cells and restoring the responsiveness of resistant tumors to anti-PD-1 therapy. Conversely, blockade of type I IFN signaling abolished the effect of radiosensitization in this setting. Collectively, these results identify a mechanism of PD-1 resistance and demonstrate that adjuvant radiotherapy can overcome resistance. These findings have immediate clinical implications for extending the efficacy of anti-PD-1 immune checkpoint therapy in patients. Cancer Res; 77(4); 839-50. ©2016 AACR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / analysis
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Interferon Type I / physiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Mice
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Interferon Type I
  • PDCD1 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor