Immunostimulatory and anti-tumor metronomic cyclophosphamide regimens assessed in primary orthotopic and metastatic murine breast cancer

NPJ Breast Cancer. 2020 Jul 20;6:29. doi: 10.1038/s41523-020-0171-1. eCollection 2020.


The impressive successes of immune checkpoint blockade antibodies to treat various types of cancer are limited to minor subsets of patients. Combination therapy strategies, including with chemotherapy, are being explored to possibly improve the efficacy of immunotherapies. Here we report results regarding the use of an immunostimulatory regimen of metronomic cyclophosphamide (CTX). We show that in orthotopic models of syngeneic murine triple-negative breast cancer (EMT6), CTX administered at 140 mg/kg every 6 days (CTX140 1q6d) is superior at inhibiting primary tumor growth when compared to maximum tolerated dose or daily oral (continuous) low-dose CTX. In SCID or SCID beige mice, anti-tumor effects of CTX140 1q6d are reduced, reinforcing the therapeutic contribution of the adaptive and innate immune systems. In a second breast cancer model (SP1-AC2M2), CTX140 1q6d again showed clear superiority in anti-tumor effects, causing complete tumor regressions; however, these mice were not protected from subsequent tumor re-challenge, suggesting absence of immune memory. We also show that in an aggressive and metastatic cisplatin-resistant variant (EMT6-CDDP), CTX140 1q6d is superior and invokes an influx of intra-tumoral CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. CTX increases expression of tumor cell PD-L1; however, when combined with concomitant PD-L1 antibody therapy none of the CTX regimens showed increased benefit. This work sheds light on the potential use of metronomic CTX for the treatment of breast cancer, in particular using the quasi-weekly regimen, but also underscores the complexity of the anti-tumor mechanisms and potential to improve immune checkpoint therapy efficacy.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cancer immunotherapy; Cancer models; Chemotherapy.