Cancer-associated thrombocytosis and high concentrations of circulating transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) are frequently observed in patients with progressive cancers. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, we show a direct link between thrombin catalytic activity and release of mature TGF-β1 from platelets. We found that thrombin cleaves glycoprotein A repetitions predominant (GARP), a cell surface docking receptor for latent TGF-β1 (LTGF-β1) on platelets, resulting in liberation of active TGF-β1 from the GARP-LTGF-β1 complex. Furthermore, systemic inhibition of thrombin obliterates TGF-β1 maturation in platelet releasate and rewires the tumor microenvironment toward favorable antitumor immunity, which translates into efficient cancer control either alone or in combination with programmed cell death 1-based immune checkpoint blockade therapy. Last, we demonstrate that soluble GARP and GARP-LTGF-β1 complex are present in the circulation of patients with cancer. Together, our data reveal a mechanism of cancer immune evasion that involves thrombin-mediated GARP cleavage and the subsequent TGF-β1 release from platelets. We propose that blockade of GARP cleavage is a valuable therapeutic strategy to overcome cancer's resistance to immunotherapy.
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