Natural killer T cell activation overcomes immunosuppression to enhance clearance of postsurgical breast cancer metastasis in mice.

PMID 25949924


Metastatic lesions are responsible for over 90% of breast cancer associated deaths. Therefore, strategies that target metastasis are of particular interest. This study examined the efficacy of natural killer T (NKT) cell activation as a post-surgical immunotherapy in a mouse model of metastatic breast cancer. Following surgical resection of orthotopic 4T1 mammary carcinoma tumors, BALB/c mice were treated with NKT cell activating glycolipid antigens (α-GalCer, α-C-GalCer or OCH) or α-GalCer-loaded dendritic cells (DCs). Low doses of glycolipids transiently reduced metastasis but did not increase survival. A high dose of α-GalCer enhanced overall survival, but was associated with increased toxicity and mortality at early time points. Treatment with α-GalCer-loaded DCs limited tumor metastasis, prolonged survival, and provided curative outcomes in ∼45% of mice. However, survival was not increased further by additional DC treatments or co-transfer of expanded NKT cells. NKT cell activation via glycolipid-loaded DCs decreased the frequency and immunosuppressive activity of myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) in tumor-resected mice. In vitro, NKT cells were resistant to the immunosuppressive effects of MDSCs and were able to reverse the inhibitory effects of MDSCs on T cell proliferation. NKT cell activation enhanced antitumor immunity in tumor-resected mice, increasing 4T1-specific cytotoxic responses and IFNγ production from natural killer (NK) cells and CD8(+) T cells. Consistent with increased tumor immunity, mice surviving to day 150 were resistant to a second tumor challenge. This work provides a clear rationale for manipulating NKT cells to target metastatic disease.