Polymerase θ inhibition activates the cGAS-STING pathway and cooperates with immune checkpoint blockade in models of BRCA-deficient cancer

Nat Commun. 2023 Mar 13;14(1):1390. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-37096-6.


Recently developed inhibitors of polymerase theta (POLθ) have demonstrated synthetic lethality in BRCA-deficient tumor models. To examine the contribution of the immune microenvironment to antitumor efficacy, we characterized the effects of POLθ inhibition in immunocompetent models of BRCA1-deficient triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) or BRCA2-deficient pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). We demonstrate that genetic POLQ depletion or pharmacological POLθ inhibition induces both innate and adaptive immune responses in these models. POLθ inhibition resulted in increased micronuclei, cGAS/STING pathway activation, type I interferon gene expression, CD8+ T cell infiltration and activation, local paracrine activation of dendritic cells and upregulation of PD-L1 expression. Depletion of CD8+ T cells compromised the efficacy of POLθ inhibition, whereas antitumor effects were augmented in combination with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that POLθ inhibition induces immune responses in a cGAS/STING-dependent manner and provide a rationale for combining POLθ inhibition with immune checkpoint blockade for the treatment of HR-deficient cancers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / metabolism
  • DNA Polymerase theta
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase