A2B adenosine receptor antagonists rescue lymphocyte activity in adenosine-producing patient-derived cancer models

J Immunother Cancer. 2022 May;10(5):e004592. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2022-004592.


Background: Adenosine is a metabolite that suppresses antitumor immune response of T and NK cells via extracellular binding to the two subtypes of adenosine-2 receptors, A2ARs. While blockade of the A2AARs subtype effectively rescues lymphocyte activity, with four A2AAR antagonists currently in anticancer clinical trials, less is known for the therapeutic potential of the other A2BAR blockade within cancer immunotherapy. Recent studies suggest the formation of A2AAR/A2BAR dimers in tissues that coexpress the two receptor subtypes, where the A2BAR plays a dominant role, suggesting it as a promising target for cancer immunotherapy.

Methods: We report the synthesis and functional evaluation of five potent A2BAR antagonists and a dual A2AAR/A2BAR antagonist. The compounds were designed using previous pharmacological data assisted by modeling studies. Synthesis was developed using multicomponent approaches. Flow cytometry was used to evaluate the phenotype of T and NK cells on A2BAR antagonist treatment. Functional activity of T and NK cells was tested in patient-derived tumor spheroid models.

Results: We provide data for six novel small molecules: five A2BAR selective antagonists and a dual A2AAR/A2BAR antagonist. The growth of patient-derived breast cancer spheroids is prevented when treated with A2BAR antagonists. To elucidate if this depends on increased lymphocyte activity, immune cells proliferation, and cytokine production, lymphocyte infiltration was evaluated and compared with the potent A2AAR antagonist AZD-4635. We find that A2BAR antagonists rescue T and NK cell proliferation, IFNγ and perforin production, and increase tumor infiltrating lymphocytes infiltration into tumor spheroids without altering the expression of adhesion molecules.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that A2BAR is a promising target in immunotherapy, identifying ISAM-R56A as the most potent candidate for A2BAR blockade. Inhibition of A2BAR signaling restores T cell function and proliferation. Furthermore, A2BAR and dual A2AAR/A2BAR antagonists showed similar or better results than A2AAR antagonist AZD-4635 reinforcing the idea of dominant role of the A2BAR in the regulation of the immune system.

Keywords: adenosine; immunotherapy; lymphocyte activation; lymphocytes, tumor-infiltrating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists*
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2B / genetics
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2B / metabolism


  • Purinergic P1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2B
  • Adenosine