Activation of innate-adaptive immune machinery by poly(I:C) exposes a therapeutic vulnerability to prevent relapse in stroma-rich colon cancer.
Corry SM., McCorry AM., Lannagan TR., Leonard NA., Fisher NC., Byrne RM., Tsantoulis P., Cortes-Lavaud X., Amirkhah R., Redmond KL., McCooey AJ., Malla SB., Rogan E., Sakhnevych S., Gillespie MA., White M., Richman SD., Jackstadt R-F., Campbell AD., Maguire S., S:CORT and ACRCelerate consortia None., McDade SS., Longley DB., Loughrey MB., Coleman HG., Kerr EM., Tejpar S., Maughan T., Leedham SJ., Small DM., Ryan AE., Sansom OJ., Lawler M., Dunne PD.
Stroma-rich tumours represent a poor prognostic subtype in stage II/III colon cancer (CC), with high relapse rates and limited response to standard adjuvant chemotherapy. To address the lack of efficacious therapeutic options for patients with stroma-rich CC, we stratified our human tumour cohorts according to stromal content, enabling identification of the biology underpinning relapse and potential therapeutic vulnerabilities specifically within stroma-rich tumours that could be exploited clinically. Following human tumour-based discovery and independent clinical validation, we use a series of in vitro and stroma-rich in vivo models to test and validate the therapeutic potential of elevating the biology associated with reduced relapse in human tumours. By performing our analyses specifically within the stroma-rich/high-fibroblast (HiFi) subtype of CC, we identify and validate the clinical value of a HiFi-specific prognostic signature (HPS), which stratifies tumours based on STAT1-related signalling (High-HPS v Low-HPS=HR 0.093, CI 0.019 to 0.466). Using in silico, in vitro and in vivo models, we demonstrate that the HPS is associated with antigen processing and presentation within discrete immune lineages in stroma-rich CC, downstream of double-stranded RNA and viral response signalling. Treatment with the TLR3 agonist poly(I:C) elevated the HPS signalling and antigen processing phenotype across in vitro and in vivo models. In an in vivo model of stroma-rich CC, poly(I:C) treatment significantly increased systemic cytotoxic T cell activity (p<0.05) and reduced liver metastases (p<0.0002). This study reveals new biological insight that offers a novel therapeutic option to reduce relapse rates in patients with the worst prognosis CC.