Blocking Short-Form Ron Eliminates Breast Cancer Metastases through Accumulation of Stem-Like CD4 + T Cells That Subvert Immunosuppression

Abstract

Immunotherapy has potential to prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer, but strategies to enhance immune-mediated killing of metastatic tumors are urgently needed. We report that a ligand-independent isoform of Ron kinase (SF-Ron) is a key target to enhance immune infiltration and eradicate metastatic tumors. Host-specific deletion of SF-Ron caused recruitment of lymphocytes to micrometastases, augmented tumor-specific T-cell responses, and nearly eliminated breast cancer metastasis in mice. Lack of host SF-Ron caused stem-like TCF1+ CD4+ T cells with type I differentiation potential to accumulate in metastases and prevent metastatic outgrowth. There was a corresponding increase in tumor-specific CD8+ T cells, which were also required to eliminate lung metastases. Treatment of mice with a Ron kinase inhibitor increased tumor-specific CD8+ T cells and protected from metastatic outgrowth. These data provide a strong preclinical rationale to pursue small-molecule Ron kinase inhibitors for the prevention and treatment of metastatic breast cancer. SIGNIFICANCE: The discovery that SF-Ron promotes antitumor immune responses has significant clinical implications. Therapeutic antibodies targeting full-length Ron may not be effective for immunotherapy; poor efficacy of such antibodies in trials may be due to their inability to block SF-Ron. Our data warrant trials with inhibitors targeting SF-Ron in combination with immunotherapy.

Publication
Cancer Discov, 11:3178-97