Indexed on: 19 Oct '17Published on: 19 Oct '17Published in: Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Advanced pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has typically been resistant to chemotherapy and immunotherapy; therefore, novel strategies are needed to enhance therapeutic response. Cholecystokinin (CCK) has been shown to stimulate growth of pancreatic cancer. CCK receptors (CCKRs) are present on pancreatic cancer cells, fibroblasts, and lymphocytes. We hypothesized that CCKR blockade would improve response to immune checkpoint antibodies by promoting influx of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and reducing fibrosis. We examined the effects of CCKR antagonists or immune checkpoint blockade antibodies alone or in combination in murine models of PDAC. Monotherapy with CCKR blockade significantly decreased tumor size and metastases in SCID mice with orthotopic PDAC, and in C57BL/6 mice, it reduced fibrosis and induced the influx of TILs. Immune-competent mice bearing syngeneic pancreatic cancer (Panc02 and mT3-2D) that were treated with the combination of CCK receptor antagonists and immune checkpoint blockade antibodies survived significantly longer with smaller tumors. Tumor immunohistochemical staining and flow cytometry demonstrated that the tumors of mice treated with the combination regimen had a significant reduction in Foxp3+ T-regulatory cells and an increase in CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes. Masson's trichrome stain analysis revealed 50% less fibrosis in the tumors of mice treated with CCKR antagonist compared to controls and compared to checkpoint antibody therapy. CCKR antagonists given with immune checkpoint antibody therapy represent a novel approach for improving survival of PDAC. The mechanism by which this combination therapy improves the survival of PDAC may be related to the decreased fibrosis and immune cells of the tumor microenvironment.