FOXA1 overexpression suppresses interferon signaling and immune response in cancer

J Clin Invest. 2021 Jul 15;131(14):e147025. doi: 10.1172/JCI147025.


Androgen receptor-positive prostate cancer (PCa) and estrogen receptor-positive luminal breast cancer (BCa) are generally less responsive to immunotherapy compared with certain tumor types such as melanoma. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully elucidated. In this study, we found that FOXA1 overexpression inversely correlated with interferon (IFN) signature and antigen presentation gene expression in PCa and BCa patients. FOXA1 bound the STAT2 DNA-binding domain and suppressed STAT2 DNA-binding activity, IFN signaling gene expression, and cancer immune response independently of the transactivation activity of FOXA1 and its mutations detected in PCa and BCa. Increased FOXA1 expression promoted cancer immuno- and chemotherapy resistance in mice and PCa and BCa patients. These findings were also validated in bladder cancer expressing high levels of FOXA1. FOXA1 overexpression could be a prognostic factor to predict therapy resistance and a viable target to sensitize luminal PCa, BCa, and bladder cancer to immuno- and chemotherapy.

Keywords: Cancer; Cancer immunotherapy; Cell Biology; Molecular biology; Therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / immunology*
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-alpha / genetics
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-alpha / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interferons / genetics
  • Interferons / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • FOXA1 protein, human
  • Foxa1 protein, mouse
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-alpha
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Interferons