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Melanoma-intrinsic β-catenin Signalling Prevents Anti-tumour Immunity

Stefani Spranger, R. Bao, T. Gajewski
Published 2015 · Biology, Medicine

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Melanoma treatment is being revolutionized by the development of effective immunotherapeutic approaches. These strategies include blockade of immune-inhibitory receptors on activated T cells; for example, using monoclonal antibodies against CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1 (refs 3, 4, 5). However, only a subset of patients responds to these treatments, and data suggest that therapeutic benefit is preferentially achieved in patients with a pre-existing T-cell response against their tumour, as evidenced by a baseline CD8+ T-cell infiltration within the tumour microenvironment. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie the presence or absence of a spontaneous anti-tumour T-cell response in subsets of cases, therefore, should enable the development of therapeutic solutions for patients lacking a T-cell infiltrate. Here we identify a melanoma-cell-intrinsic oncogenic pathway that contributes to a lack of T-cell infiltration in melanoma. Molecular analysis of human metastatic melanoma samples revealed a correlation between activation of the WNT/β-catenin signalling pathway and absence of a T-cell gene expression signature. Using autochthonous mouse melanoma models we identified the mechanism by which tumour-intrinsic active β-catenin signalling results in T-cell exclusion and resistance to anti-PD-L1/anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody therapy. Specific oncogenic signals, therefore, can mediate cancer immune evasion and resistance to immunotherapies, pointing to new candidate targets for immune potentiation.
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