The success of T cell-based cancer immunotherapy is limited by tumor's resistance against killing by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Tumor-immune resistance is mediated by cell surface ligands that engage immune-inhibitory receptors on T cells. These ligands represent potent targets for therapeutic inhibition. So far, only few immune-suppressive ligands have been identified. We here describe a rapid high-throughput siRNA-based screening approach that allows a comprehensive identification of ligands on human cancer cells that inhibit CTL-mediated tumor cell killing. We exemplarily demonstrate that CCR9, which is expressed in many cancers, exerts strong immune-regulatory effects on T cell responses in multiple tumors. Unlike PDL1, which inhibits TCR signaling, CCR9 regulates STAT signaling in T cells, resulting in reduced T-helper-1 cytokine secretion and reduced cytotoxic capacity. Moreover, inhibition of CCR9 expression on tumor cells facilitated immunotherapy of human tumors by tumor-specific T cells in vivo. Taken together, this method allows a rapid and comprehensive determination of immune-modulatory genes in human tumors which, as an entity, represent the immune modulatome' of cancer.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published