The STING agonist, DMXAA, reduces tumor vessels and enhances mesothelioma tumor antigen presentation yet blunts cytotoxic T cell function in a murine model

Frontiers in Immunology 2022 November 18 [Link]

Peter T Graham, Anna K Nowak, Scott M J Cornwall, Irma Larma, Delia J Nelson


We assessed the murine Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) agonist, DMXAA, for anti-mesothelioma potential using the AE17-sOVA model that expresses ovalbumin (OVA) as a neo tumor antigen. Dose response experiments alongside testing different routes of administration identified a safe effective treatment regimen that induced 100% cures in mice with small or large tumors. Three doses of 25mg/kg DMXAA given intra-tumorally every 9 days induced tumor regression and long-term survival (>5 months). Re-challenge experiments showed that tumor-free mice developed protective memory. MTT and propidium-iodide assays showed that DMXAA exerted direct cytotoxic effects at doses >1mg/ml on the murine AE17 and AB1 mesothelioma cell lines. In-vivo studies using a CFSE-based in-vivo proliferation assay showed that DMXAA improved tumor-antigen presentation in tumor-draining lymph nodes, evidenced by OVA-specific OT-1 T cells undergoing more divisions. An in-vivo cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) assay showed that DMXAA blunted the lytic quality of CTLs recognizing the dominant (SIINFEKL) and a subdominant (KVVRFDKL) OVA epitopes. DMXAA reduced tumor vessel size in-vivo and although the proportion of T cells infiltrating tumors reduced, the proportion of tumor-specific T cells increased. These data show careful dosing and treatment protocols reduce mesothelioma cell viability and modulate tumor vessels such that tumor-antigen specific CTLs access the tumor site. However, attempts to enhance DMXAA-induced anti-tumor responses by combination with an agonist anti-CD40 antibody or IL-2 reduced efficacy. These proof-of-concept data suggest that mesothelioma patients could benefit from treatment with a STING agonist, but combination with immunotherapy should be cautiously undertaken.