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Original research
Targeting dual signalling pathways in concert with immune checkpoints for the treatment of pancreatic cancer

Abstract

Objective This study exploits the intersection between molecular-targeted therapies and immune-checkpoint inhibition to define new means to treat pancreatic cancer.

Design Patient-derived cell lines and xenograft models were used to define the response to CDK4/6 and MEK inhibition in the tumour compartment. Impacts relative to immunotherapy were performed using subcutaneous and orthotopic syngeneic models. Single-cell RNA sequencing and multispectral imaging were employed to delineate effects on the immunological milieu in the tumour microenvironment.

Results We found that combination treatment with MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitors was effective across a broad range of PDX models in delaying tumour progression. These effects were associated with stable cell-cycle arrest, as well as the induction of multiple genes associated with interferon response and antigen presentation in an RB-dependent fashion. Using single-cell sequencing and complementary approaches, we found that the combination of CDK4/6 and MEK inhibition had a significant impact on increasing T-cell infiltration and altering myeloid populations, while potently cooperating with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Conclusions Together, these data indicate that there are canonical and non-canonical features of CDK4/6 and MEK inhibition that impact on the tumour and immune microenvironment. This combination-targeted treatment can promote robust tumour control in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

  • pancreatic cancer
  • immunotherapy
  • cancer genetics
  • cell cycle
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