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Mol Cancer Ther. 2019 Dec;18(12):2343-2356. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-18-1262. Epub 2019 Sep 12.

Utility of the RIG-I Agonist Triphosphate RNA for Melanoma Therapy.

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Sanofi R&D, Biologics Research, Frankfurt, Germany.
Sanofi R&D, Biologics Research, Frankfurt, Germany.
Sanofi R&D, Discovery Pathology, Frankfurt, Germany.
Sanofi R&D, Oncology Research, Cambridge, MA.
Center of Integrated Protein Science Munich (CIPS-M) and Division of Clinical Pharmacology, LMU University Hospital, Munich, Germany.
Einheit für Klinische Pharmakologie (EKLIP), Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen, Neuherberg, Germany.


The pattern recognition receptor RIG-I plays an important role in the recognition of nonself RNA and antiviral immunity. RIG-I's natural ligand, triphosphate RNA (ppp-RNA), is proposed to be a valuable addition to the growing arsenal of cancer immunotherapy treatment options. In this study, we present comprehensive data validating the concept and utility of treatment with synthetic RIG-I agonist ppp-RNA for the therapy of human cancer, with melanoma as potential entry indication amenable to intratumoral treatment. Using mRNA expression data of human tumors, we demonstrate that RIG-I expression is closely correlated to cellular and cytokine immune activation in a wide variety of tumor types. Furthermore, we confirm susceptibility of cancer cells to ppp-RNA treatment in different cellular models of human melanoma, revealing unexpected heterogeneity between cell lines in their susceptibility to RNA agonist features, including sequence, secondary structures, and presence of triphosphate. Cellular responses to RNA treatment (induction of type I IFN, FasR, MHC-I, and cytotoxicity) were demonstrated to be RIG-I dependent using KO cells. Following ppp-RNA treatment of a mouse melanoma model, we observed significant local and systemic antitumor effects and survival benefits. These were associated with type I IFN response, tumor cell apoptosis, and innate and adaptive immune cell activation. For the first time, we demonstrate systemic presence of tumor antigen-specific CTLs following treatment with RIG-I agonists. Despite potential challenges in the generation and formulation of potent RIG-I agonists, ppp-RNA or analogues thereof have the potential to play an important role for cancer treatment in the next wave of immunotherapy.

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