Systemic inhibition of PTPN22 augments anticancer immunity

J Clin Invest. 2021 Jul 20;131(17):e146950. doi: 10.1172/JCI146950. Online ahead of print.


Both epidemiologic and cellular studies in the context of autoimmune diseases have established that protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (PTPN22) is a key regulator of T cell receptor (TCR) signaling. However, its mechanism of action in tumors and its translatability as a target for cancer immunotherapy have not been established. Here we show that a germline variant of PTPN22, rs2476601, portended a lower likelihood of cancer in patients. PTPN22 expression was also associated with markers of immune regulation in multiple cancer types. In mice, lack of PTPN22 augmented antitumor activity with greater infiltration and activation of macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and T cells. Notably, we generated a novel small molecule inhibitor of PTPN22, named L-1, that phenocopied the antitumor effects seen in genotypic PTPN22 knockout. PTPN22 inhibition promoted activation of CD8+ T cells and macrophage subpopulations toward MHC-II expressing M1-like phenotypes, both of which were necessary for successful antitumor efficacy. Increased PD1-PDL1 axis in the setting of PTPN22 inhibition could be further leveraged with PD1 inhibition to augment antitumor effects. Similarly, cancer patients with the rs2476601 variant responded significantly better to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy. Our findings suggest that PTPN22 is a druggable systemic target for cancer immunotherapy.

Keywords: Cancer immunotherapy; Drug therapy; Immunology; Oncology.