We previously showed that ablation of tumor hypoxia can sensitize tumors to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB). Here, we used a Kras+/G12D TP53+/R172H Pdx1-Cre–derived (KPC-derived) model of pancreatic adenocarcinoma to examine the tumor response and adaptive resistance mechanisms involved in response to 2 established methods of hypoxia-reducing therapy: the hypoxia-activated prodrug TH-302 and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) blockade. The combination of both modalities normalized tumor vasculature, increased DNA damage and cell death, and delayed tumor growth. In contrast with prior cancer models, the combination did not alleviate overall tissue hypoxia or sensitize these KPC tumors to ICB therapy despite qualitative improvements to the CD8+ T cell response. Bulk tumor RNA sequencing, flow cytometry, and adoptive myeloid cell transfer suggested that treated tumor cells increased their capacity to recruit granulocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells (G-MDSCs) through CCL9 secretion. Blockade of the CCL9/CCR1 axis could limit G-MDSC migration, and depletion of Ly6G-positive cells could sensitize tumors to the combination of TH-302, anti–VEGFR-2, and ICB. Together, these data suggest that pancreatic tumors modulate G-MDSC migration as an adaptive response to vascular normalization and that these immunosuppressive myeloid cells act in a setting of persistent hypoxia to maintain adaptive immune resistance.
Arthur Liu, Seth T. Gammon, Federica Pisaneschi, Akash Boda, Casey R. Ager, David Piwnica-Worms, David S. Hong, Michael A. Curran