Efficacious cancer immunotherapies will likely require combinations of strategies that enhance tumor antigen presentation and antagonize negative immune regulatory circuits. We demonstrated that vaccination with irradiated, autologous melanoma cells engineered to secrete GM-CSF followed by antibody blockade of CTLA-4 accomplishes clinically significant tumor destruction with minimal toxicity in a majority of stage IV metastatic melanoma patients. The extent of tumor necrosis in post-treatment biopsies was linearly related to the natural logarithm of the ratio of infiltrating CD8+ effector T cells to FoxP3+ Tregs, suggesting that further Treg inhibition might increase the frequency of clinical responses. Through an analysis of cytokine deficient mice, we delineated a critical role for GM-CSF in Treg homeostasis. GM-CSF is required for the expression of the phosphatidylserine binding protein MFG-E8 in antigen presenting cells, whereas the uptake of apoptotic cells by phagocyte-derived MFG-E8 maintains peripheral Treg numbers through TGF-?, MHC class II, and CCL22. In wild type mice, MFG-E8 restrains the potency of GM-CSF secreting B16 melanoma vaccines through Treg induction, while a dominant negative MFG-E8 mutant (RGE) potentiates therapeutic immunity through Treg inhibition. In patients, MFG-E8 is expressed at high levels in melanoma cells and/or tumor associated myeloid elements upon progression to the vertical growth phase. MFG-E8 acts as a melanoma promoter through coordinated ?v?3 integrin signaling in the tumor microenvironment, thereby stimulating melanoma cell resistance to apoptosis, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, invasion, angiogenesis, and immune suppression. Inhibition of MFG-E8 with shRNAs or systemic antibodies enhances the anti-tumor activity of cytotoxic treatments in vitro and in vivo. Together, our results suggest that MFG-E8 blockade may trigger melanoma destruction through both immune-mediated and tumor cell autonomous pathways. In this project, we will explore the mechanisms underlying the anti-tumor effects of antagonizing MFG-E8 using pre-clinical models and blood samples from patients.
Our Specific Aims are: 1. To elucidate the biologic activities of GM-CSF/RGE secreting melanoma vaccines in murine models. 2. To elucidate the biologic activities of anti-MFG-E8 antibodies in murine melanoma models. 3. To characterize the human GM-CSF/MFG-E8/Treg pathway using melanoma patient samples.

Public Health Relevance

This project explores a new therapeutic approach for malignant melanoma (the most lethal form of skin cancer) that involves targeting a protein called MFG-E8. We have shown that MFG-E8 functions to promote the growth of melanoma cells and to inhibit protective immune responses against melanoma. Blocking the actions of MFG-E8 in mouse models results in melanoma destruction. Work in this project will clarify the ways in which MFG-E8 blockade accomplishes melanoma killing, which in turn should support the development of MFG-E8 targeted treatments for melanoma patients.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Transplantation, Tolerance, and Tumor Immunology (TTT)
Program Officer
Mccarthy, Susan A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
United States
Zip Code
Xu, Chunxiao; Fillmore, Christine M; Koyama, Shohei et al. (2014) Loss of Lkb1 and Pten leads to lung squamous cell carcinoma with elevated PD-L1 expression. Cancer Cell 25:590-604
Dranoff, Glenn (2013) Immunotherapy at large: Balancing tumor immunity and inflammatory pathology. Nat Med 19:1100-1
Reardon, David A; Wucherpfennig, Kai W; Freeman, Gordon et al. (2013) An update on vaccine therapy and other immunotherapeutic approaches for glioblastoma. Expert Rev Vaccines 12:597-615
Bulliard, Yannick; Jolicoeur, Rose; Windman, Maurice et al. (2013) Activating Fc ýý receptors contribute to the antitumor activities of immunoregulatory receptor-targeting antibodies. J Exp Med 210:1685-93
Dranoff, Glenn; Fearon, Douglas (2013) Tumour immunology. Curr Opin Immunol 25:189-91
Burkhardt, Ute E; Hainz, Ursula; Stevenson, Kristen et al. (2013) Autologous CLL cell vaccination early after transplant induces leukemia-specific T cells. J Clin Invest 123:3756-65
Akbay, Esra A; Koyama, Shohei; Carretero, Julian et al. (2013) Activation of the PD-1 pathway contributes to immune escape in EGFR-driven lung tumors. Cancer Discov 3:1355-63
May Jr, Kenneth F; Gulley, James L; Drake, Charles G et al. (2011) Prostate cancer immunotherapy. Clin Cancer Res 17:5233-8
Ogino, Shuji; Galon, Jerome; Fuchs, Charles S et al. (2011) Cancer immunology--analysis of host and tumor factors for personalized medicine. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 8:711-9
Dranoff, Glenn (2011) Granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor and inflammatory bowel disease: establishing a connection. Gastroenterology 141:28-31

Showing the most recent 10 out of 12 publications