Myeloid Cells Orchestrate Systemic Immunosuppression, Impairing the Efficacy of Immunotherapy against HPV+ Cancers

Cancer Immunol Res. 2020 Jan;8(1):131-145. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-19-0315. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Cancers induced by human papillomaviruses (HPV) should be responsive to immunotherapy by virtue of expressing the immunogenic oncoproteins E6/E7. However, advanced forms of cervical cancer, driven by HPV, are poorly responsive to immune response-enhancing treatments involving therapeutic vaccination against these viral neoantigens. Leveraging a transgenic mouse model of HPV-derived cancers, K14HPV16/H2b, we demonstrated that a potent nanoparticle-based E7 vaccine, but not a conventional "liquid" vaccine, induced E7 tumor antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in cervical tumor-bearing mice. Vaccination alone or in combination with anti-PD-1/anti-CTLA4 did not elicit tumor regression nor increase CD8+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME), suggesting the presence of immune-suppressive barriers. Patients with cervical cancer have poor dendritic cell functions, have weak cytotoxic lymphocyte responses, and demonstrate an accumulation of myeloid cells in the periphery. Here, we illustrated that myeloid cells in K14HPV16/H2b mice possess potent immunosuppressive activity toward antigen-presenting cells and CD8+ T cells, dampening antitumor immunity. These immune-inhibitory effects inhibited synergistic effects of combining our oncoprotein vaccine with immune checkpoint-blocking antibodies. Our data highlighted a link between HPV-induced cancers, systemic amplification of myeloid cells, and the detrimental effects of myeloid cells on CD8+ T-cell activation and recruitment into the TME. These results established immunosuppressive myeloid cells in lymphoid organs as an HPV+ cancer-induced means of circumventing tumor immunity that will require targeted abrogation to enable the induction of efficacious antitumor immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / pharmacology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CTLA-4 Antigen / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Mice
  • Myeloid Cells / drug effects
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology*
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Papillomaviridae / immunology*
  • Papillomavirus E7 Proteins / immunology
  • Papillomavirus E7 Proteins / metabolism
  • Papillomavirus Infections / drug therapy
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / immunology*
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Ctla4 protein, mouse
  • Papillomavirus E7 Proteins
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines
  • Pdcd1 protein, mouse
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor