Inhibiting WNT Ligand Production for Improved Immune Recognition in the Ovarian Tumor Microenvironment

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Mar 24;12(3):766. doi: 10.3390/cancers12030766.


In ovarian cancer, upregulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway leads to chemoresistance and correlates with T cell exclusion from the tumor microenvironment (TME). Our objectives were to validate these findings in an independent cohort of ovarian cancer subjects and determine whether inhibiting the Wnt pathway in a syngeneic ovarian cancer murine model could create a more T-cell-inflamed TME, which would lead to decreased tumor growth and improved survival. We preformed RNA sequencing in a cohort of human high grade serous ovarian carcinoma subjects. We used CGX1321, an inhibitor to the porcupine (PORCN) enzyme that is necessary for secretion of WNT ligand, in mice with established ID8 tumors, a murine ovarian cancer cell line. In order to investigate the effect of decreased Wnt/β-catenin pathway activity in the dendritic cells (DCs), we injected ID8 cells in mice that lacked β-catenin specifically in DCs. Furthermore, to understand how much the effects of blocking the Wnt/β-catenin pathway are dependent on CD8+ T cells, we injected ID8 cells into mice with CD8+ T cell depletion. We confirmed a negative correlation between Wnt activity and T cell signature in our cohort. Decreasing WNT ligand production resulted in increases in T cell, macrophage and dendritic cell functions, decreased tumor burden and improved survival. Reduced tumor growth was found in mice that lacked β-catenin specifically in DCs. When CD8+ T cells were depleted, CGX1321 treatment did not have the same magnitude of effect on tumor growth. Our investigation confirmed an increase in Wnt activity correlated with a decreased T-cell-inflamed environment; a relationship that was further supported in our pre-clinical model that suggests inhibiting the Wnt/β-catenin pathway was associated with decreased tumor growth and improved survival via a partial dependence on CD8+ T cells.

Keywords: CGX1321; ID8 cells; ID8p53−/− cells; PORCN inhibitor; Wnt; Wnt inhibition; murine ovarian cancer; ovarian cancer; tumor microenvironment.