STING agonist has recently gained much attention for cancer treatment, but the therapeutic potential of STING agonist is hampered by STING-associated tumor immune resistance. In this work, guided by both bioinformatics and computer modeling, we rationally designed a “one stone hits two birds” nanoparticle-based strategy to simultaneously activate STING innate immune response while eliminating STING-associated immune resistance for the treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). We discovered that the ultra-small sized micellar system based on gemcitabine-conjugated polymer (PGEM), which showed superior capacity of penetration in pancreatic tumor spheroid model and orthotopic tumor model, could serve as a novel “STING agonist”. The activation of STING signaling in dendritic cells (DCs) by PGEM increased both innate nature killer (NK) and adaptive anti-tumor T cell response. However, activation of STING signaling by PGEM in tumor cells also drove the induction of chemokines CCL2 and CCL7, resulting in immune resistance by recruiting tumor associated macrophage (TAM) and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Through the combination of computer modeling and experimental screening, we developed a dual delivery modality by incorporating a CCR2 (the receptor shared by both CCL2 and CCL7) antagonist PF-6309 (PF) into PGEM micellar system. Our studies demonstrated that PGEM/PF formulation significantly reduced pancreatic tumor burden and induced potent anti-tumor immunity through reversing the CCL2/CCL7-mediated immunosuppression. Moreover, PGEM/PF sensitized PDAC tumors to anti-PD-1 therapy, leading to complete suppression/eradication of the tumors. Our work has shed light to the multi-faceted role of STING activation and provided a novel immunotherapy regimen to maximize the benefit of STING activation for PDAC treatment. In addition, this work paved a new way for bioinformatics and computer modeling-guided rational design of nanomedicine.

Overcoming pancreatic cancer immune resistance by codelivery of CCR2 antagonist using a STING-activating gemcitabine-based nanocarrier

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2022.11.008