Emerging cancers are sculpted by neo-Darwinian selection for superior growth and survival but minimal immunogenicity; consequently, metastatic cancers often evolve common genetic and epigenetic signatures to elude immune surveillance. Immune subversion by metastatic tumours can be achieved through several mechanisms; one of the most frequently observed involves the loss of expression or mutation of genes composing the MHC-I antigen presentation machinery (APM) that yields tumours invisible to Cytotoxic T lymphocytes, the key component of the adaptive cellular immune response. Fascinating ethnographic and experimental findings indicate that cannabinoids inhibit the growth and progression of several categories of cancer; however, the mechanisms underlying these observations remain clouded in uncertainty. Here, we screened a library of cannabinoid compounds and found molecular selectivity amongst specific cannabinoids, where related molecules such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, and cannabigerol can reverse the metastatic immune escape phenotype in vitro by inducing MHC-I cell surface expression in a wide variety of metastatic tumours that subsequently sensitizing tumours to T lymphocyte recognition. Remarkably, H3K27Ac ChIPseq analysis established that cannabigerol and gamma interferon induce overlapping epigenetic signatures and key gene pathways in metastatic tumours related to cellular senescence, as well as APM genes involved in revealing metastatic tumours to the adaptive immune response. Overall, the data suggest that specific cannabinoids may have utility in cancer immunotherapy regimens by overcoming immune escape and augmenting cancer immune surveillance in metastatic disease. Finally, the fundamental discovery of the ability of cannabinoids to alter epigenetic programs may help elucidate many of the pleiotropic medicinal effects of cannabinoids on human physiology.
Keywords: CTL; MHC; cannabinoids; cytolytic T lymphocyte; immune edited; immune escape; major histocompatibility class I; metastatic cancers.
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