Docetaxel (DTX) combined with cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil has been used as induction chemotherapy for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). However, the development of acquired resistance remains a major obstacle to treatment response. Tumor-associated macrophages are associated with chemotherapeutic resistance. In the present study, increased infiltration of macrophages into the tumor microenvironment (TME) was significantly associated with shorter overall survival and increased resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs, particularly DTX, in patients with HNSCC. Macrophage coculture induced expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM1), which promotes stemness and the formation of polyploid giant cancer cells, thereby reducing the efficacy of DTX. Both genetic silencing and pharmacological inhibition of ICAM1 sensitized HNSCC to DTX. Macrophage secretion of IL-1β was found to induce tumor expression of ICAM1. IL-1β neutralization and IL-1 receptor blockade reversed DTX resistance induced by macrophage coculture. IL-1β activated superoxide dismutase 2 and inhibited catalase, thereby modulating intracellular levels of ROS and inducing ICAM1 expression. Arsenic trioxide (ATO) reduced macrophage infiltration into the TME and impaired IL-1β secretion by macrophages. The combinatorial use of ATO enhanced the in vivo efficacy of DTX in a mouse model, which may provide a revolutionary approach to overcoming acquired therapeutic resistance in HNSCC.


Ching-Yun Hsieh, Ching-Chan Lin, Yu-Wen Huang, Jong-Hang Chen, Yung-An Tsou, Ling-Chu Chang, Chi-Chen Fan, Chen-Yuan Lin, Wei-Chao Chang


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