Combine and conquer: manganese synergizing anti-TGF-β/PD-L1 bispecific antibody YM101 to overcome immunotherapy resistance in non-inflamed cancers

J Hematol Oncol. 2021 Sep 15;14(1):146. doi: 10.1186/s13045-021-01155-6.


Background: Our previous work showed that the anti-TGF-β/PD-L1 bispecific antibody YM101 effectively overcame anti-PD-L1 resistance in immune-excluded tumor models. However, in immune-desert models, the efficacy of YM101 was limited. Bivalent manganese (Mn2+) is identified as a natural stimulator of interferon genes (STING) agonist, which might enhance cancer antigen presentation and improve the therapeutic effect of YM101.

Methods: The effect of Mn2+ on STING pathway was validated by western blotting and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Dendritic cell (DC) maturation was measured by flow cytometry. The synergistic effect between Mn2+ and YM101 in vitro was determined by one-way mixed lymphocyte reaction, CFSE dilution assay, and cytokine detection. The in vivo antitumor effect of Mn2+ plus YM101 therapy was assessed in CT26, EMT-6, H22, and B16 tumor models. Flow cytometry, RNA-seq, and immunofluorescent staining were adopted to investigate the alterations in the tumor microenvironment.

Results: Mn2+ could activate STING pathway and promote the maturation of human and murine DC. The results of one-way mixed lymphocyte reaction showed that Mn2+ synergized YM101 in T cell activation. Moreover, in multiple syngeneic murine tumor models, Mn2+ plus YM101 therapy exhibited a durable antitumor effect and prolonged the survival of tumor-bearing mice. Relative to YM101 monotherapy and Mn2+ plus anti-PD-L1 therapy, Mn2+ plus YM101 treatment had a more powerful antitumor effect and a broader antitumor spectrum. Mechanistically, Mn2+ plus YM101 strategy simultaneously regulated multiple components in the antitumor immunity and drove the shift from immune-excluded or immune-desert to immune-inflamed tumors. The investigation in the TME indicated Mn2+ plus YM101 strategy activated innate and adaptive immunity, enhanced cancer antigen presentation, and upregulated the density and function of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. This normalized TME and reinvigorated antitumor immunity contributed to the superior antitumor effect of the combination therapy.

Conclusion: Combining Mn2+ with YM101 has a synergistic antitumor effect, effectively controlling tumor growth and prolonging the survival of tumor-bearing mice. This novel cocktail strategy has the potential to be a universal regimen for inflamed and non-inflamed tumors.

Keywords: Bispecific antibody; Cancer immunotherapy; Manganese; PD-L1; TGF-β; The tumor microenvironment; cGAS-STING.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Manganese / therapeutic use*
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Manganese