Epigenetic Immune Remodeling of Mesothelioma Cells: A New Strategy to Improve the Efficacy of Immunotherapy

Epigenomes 2021 December 14 [Link]

Maria Fortunata Lofiego, Sara Cannito, Carolina Fazio, Francesca Piazzini, Ornella Cutaia, Laura Solmonese, Francesco Marzani, Carla Chiarucci, Anna Maria Di Giacomo, Luana Calabrò, Sandra Coral, Michele Maio, Alessia Covre


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive malignancy with a severe prognosis, and with a long-standing need for more effective therapeutic approaches. However, treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors is becoming an increasingly effective strategy for MPM patients. In this scenario, epigenetic modifications may negatively regulate the interplay between immune and malignant cells within the tumor microenvironment, thus contributing to the highly immunosuppressive contexture of MPM that may limit the efficacy of immunotherapy. Aiming to further improve prospectively the clinical efficacy of immunotherapeutic approaches in MPM, we investigated the immunomodulatory potential of different classes of epigenetic drugs (i.e., DNA hypomethylating agent (DHA) guadecitabine, histone deacetylase inhibitors VPA and SAHA, or EZH2 inhibitors EPZ-6438) in epithelioid, biphasic, and sarcomatoid MPM cell lines, by cytofluorimetric and real-time PCR analyses. We also characterized the effects of the DHA, guadecitabine, on the gene expression profiles (GEP) of the investigated MPM cell lines by the nCounter platform. Among investigated drugs, exposure of MPM cells to guadecitabine, either alone or in combination with VPA, SAHA and EPZ-6438 demonstrated to be the main driver of the induction/upregulation of immune molecules functionally crucial in host-tumor interaction (i.e., HLA class I, ICAM-1 and cancer testis antigens) in all three MPM subtypes investigated. Additionally, GEP demonstrated that treatment with guadecitabine led to the activation of genes involved in several immune-related functional classes mainly in the sarcomatoid subtype. Furthermore, among investigated MPM subtypes, DHA-induced CDH1 expression that contributes to restoring the epithelial phenotype was highest in sarcomatoid cells. Altogether, our results contribute to providing the rationale to develop new epigenetically-based immunotherapeutic approaches for MPM patients, potentially tailored to the specific histologic subtypes.