LKB1 inactivating mutations are commonly observed in patients with KRAS-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Although treatment of NSCLC with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) has resulted in improved overall survival in a subset of patients, studies have revealed that co-occurring KRAS/LKB1 mutations drive primary resistance to ICIs in NSCLC. Effective therapeutic options that overcome ICI resistance in LKB1-mutant NSCLC are limited. Here, we report that loss of LKB1 results in increased secretion of the C-X-C motif (CXC) chemokines with an NH2-terminal Glu-Leu-Arg (ELR) motif in premalignant and cancerous cells, as well as in genetically engineered murine models (GEMM) of NSCLC. Heightened levels of ELR+ CXC chemokines in LKB1-deficient murine models of NSCLC positively correlated with increased abundance of granulocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells (G-MDSC) locally within the tumor microenvironment and systemically in peripheral blood and spleen. Depletion of G-MDSCs with antibody or functional inhibition via all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) led to enhanced antitumor T-cell responses and sensitized LKB1-deficent murine tumors to PD-1 blockade. Combination therapy with anti-PD-1 and ATRA improved local and systemic T-cell proliferation and generated tumor-specific immunity. Our findings implicate ELR+ CXC chemokine-mediated enrichment of G-MDSCs as a potential mediator of immunosuppression in LKB1-deficient NSCLC and provide a rationale for using ATRA in combination with anti-PD-1 therapy in patients with LKB1-deficient NSCLC refractory to ICIs. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings show that accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells in LKB1-deficient non-small cell lung cancer can be overcome via treatment with all-trans-retinoic acid, sensitizing tumors to immunotherapy.
©2021 American Association for Cancer Research.