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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2014 Sep;63(9):925-38. doi: 10.1007/s00262-014-1565-4. Epub 2014 Jun 7.

The microtubule-depolymerizing agent ansamitocin P3 programs dendritic cells toward enhanced anti-tumor immunity.

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Cancer Immunology and Biology, Department of Biomedicine, University Hospital Basel and University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


In addition to direct tumor cell cytotoxicity, chemotherapy can mediate tumor reduction through immune modulation of the tumor microenvironment to promote anti-tumor immunity. Mature dendritic cells (DCs) play key roles in priming robust immune responses in tumor-bearing hosts. Here, we screened a panel of 21 anticancer agents with defined molecular targets for their ability to induce direct maturation of DCs. We identified ansamitocin P3, a microtubule-depolymerizing agent, as a potent inducer of phenotypic and functional maturation of DCs. Exposure of both murine spleen-derived and human monocyte-derived DCs to ansamitocin P3 triggered up-regulation of maturation markers and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, resulting in an enhanced T cell stimulatory capacity. Local administration of ansamitocin P3 induced maturation of skin Langerhans cells in vivo and promoted antigen uptake and extensive homing of tumor-resident DCs to tumor-draining lymph nodes. When used as an adjuvant in a specific vaccination approach, ansamitocin P3 dramatically increased activation of antigen-specific T cells. Finally, we demonstrate that ansamitocin P3, due to its immunomodulatory properties, acts in synergy with antibody-mediated blockade of the T cell inhibitory receptors PD-1 and CTLA-4. The combination treatment was most effective and induced durable growth inhibition of established tumors. Mechanistically, we observed a reduced regulatory T cell frequency and improved T cell effector function at the tumor site. Taken together, our study unravels an immune-based anti-tumor mechanism exploited by microtubule-depolymerizing agents, including ansamitocin P3, and paves the way for future clinical trials combining this class of agents with immunotherapy.

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