Clin Cancer Res 2020 Sep 17. Epub 2020 Sep 17.
Translational Medicine, Research and Early Development, Oncology R&D,, AstraZeneca
Purpose: Danvatirsen is a therapeutic antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) that selectively targets STAT3 and has shown clinical activity in two Phase 1 clinical studies. We interrogated the clinical mechanism of action using danvatirsen-treated patient samples and conducted back-translational studies to further elucidate its immunomodulatory mechanism of action.
Experimental Design: Paired biopsies and blood samples from danvatirsen-treated patients were evaluated using immunohistochemistry and gene expression analysis. To gain mechanistic insight, we used mass cytometry, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence analysis of CT26 tumors treated with a mouse surrogate STAT3 ASO, and human immune cells treated in vitro with danvatirsen.
Results: Within the tumors of treated patients, danvatirsen uptake was observed mainly in cells of the tumor microenvironment (TME). Gene expression analysis comparing baseline and on-treatment tumor samples showed increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes. In mouse models, STAT3 ASO demonstrated partial tumor growth inhibition and enhanced the anti-tumor activity when combined with anti-PD-L1. Immune profiling revealed reduced STAT3 protein in immune and stromal cells, and decreased suppressive cytokines correlating with increased pro-inflammatory macrophages and cytokine production. These changes led to enhanced T-cell abundance and function in combination with anti-PD-L1.
Conclusions: STAT3 ASO treatment reverses a suppressive TME and promotes pro-inflammatory gene expression changes in patients' tumors and mouse models. Preclinical data provide evidence that ASO-mediated inhibition of STAT3 in the immune compartment is sufficient to remodel the TME and enhance the activity of checkpoint blockade without direct STAT3 inhibition in tumor cells. Collectively, these data provide rationale for testing this combination in the clinic.