Immune-suppressed organ transplant recipients (OTRs) can develop catastrophic squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), characterized by multiple primary tumors, extensive body surface area involvement, or metastases. There are currently no curative systemic therapies available. We previously showed that IL-22 enhances SCC proliferation. Herein, we examined links between cyclosporine (CSA), IL-22, and SCC in patients, cell lines, and mice with UV light–induced SCC. Eighteen of 114 OTRs developed catastrophic SCC, which was strongly associated with CSA treatment. We found that CSA drives T cell polarization toward IL-22–producing T22 cells, and CSA treatment increased IL-22 receptor in SCC cells. SCC tissue from OTRs showed increased expression of IL-22RA1. CSA potentiated rescue by IL-22 of serum-starved SCC cells; treatment of SCC cells with IL-22 and CSA increased both their migratory and invasive capacity. In a UV-induced model of SCC in SKH-1 immunocompetent mice, treatment with anti–IL-22 antibody reduced tumor number and tumor burden. We found that catastrophic SCC in OTRs is associated with CSA use, which may be acting by favoring T22 polarization. Since anti–IL-22 antibody administration decreased tumor number and tumor burden in vivo, blockade of the IL-22 axis may be developed as a viable therapeutic option for catastrophic SCC.


Melody Abikhair, Hiroshi Mitsui, Valerie Yanofsky, Nazanin Roudiani, Channa Ovits, Teddy Bryan, Tatiana M. Oberyszyn, Kathleen L. Tober, Juana Gonzalez, James G. Krueger, Diane Felsen, John A. Carucci


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