With immune checkpoint therapy (ICT) having reshaped the treatment of many cancers, the next frontier is to identify and develop novel combination therapies to improve efficacy. Previously, we and others identified beneficial immunological effects of the vitamin A derivative tretinoin on anti-tumour immunity. Although it is known that tretinoin preferentially depletes myeloid derived suppressor cells in blood, little is known about the effects of tretinoin on the tumour microenvironment, hampering the rational design of clinical trials using tretinoin in combination with ICT. Here, we aimed to identify how tretinoin changed the tumour microenvironment in mouse tumour models, using flow cytometry and RNAseq, and we sought to use that information to establish optimal dosing and scheduling of tretinoin in combination with several ICT antibodies in multiple cancer models. We found that tretinoin rapidly induced an interferon dominated inflammatory tumour microenvironment, characterised by increased CD8+ T cell infiltration. This phenotype completely overlapped with the phenotype that was induced by ICT itself, and we confirmed that the combination further amplified this inflammatory milieu. The addition of tretinoin significantly improved the efficacy of anti-CTLA4/anti-PD-L1 combination therapy, and staggered scheduling was more efficacious than concomitant scheduling, in a dose-dependent manner. The positive effects of tretinoin could be extended to ICT antibodies targeting OX40, GITR and CTLA4 monotherapy in multiple cancer models. These data show that tretinoin induces an interferon driven, CD8+ T cell tumour microenvironment that is responsive to ICT.
Keywords: cancer; immune checkpoint therapy; interferon; mesothelioma; retinoic acid.
Copyright © 2022 Tilsed, Casey, de Jong, Bosco, Zemek, Salmons, Wan, Millward, Nowak, Lake and Lesterhuis.