Targeting chromatin binding proteins and modifying enzymes can concomitantly affect tumor cell proliferation and survival, as well as enhance antitumor immunity and augment cancer immunotherapies. By screening a small-molecule library of epigenetics-based therapeutics, BET (bromo- and extra-terminal domain) inhibitors (BETi) were identified as agents that sensitize tumor cells to the antitumor activity of CD8+ T cells. BETi modulated tumor cells to be sensitized to the cytotoxic effects of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF. By preventing the recruitment of BRD4 to p65-bound cis-regulatory elements, BETi suppressed the induction of inflammatory gene expression, including the key NF-κB target genes BIRC2 (cIAP1) and BIRC3 (cIAP2). Disruption of prosurvival NF-κB signaling by BETi led to unrestrained TNF-mediated activation of the extrinsic apoptotic cascade and tumor cell death. Administration of BETi in combination with T-cell bispecific antibodies (TCB) or immune-checkpoint blockade increased bystander killing of tumor cells and enhanced tumor growth inhibition in vivo in a TNF-dependent manner. This novel epigenetic mechanism of immunomodulation may guide future use of BETi as adjuvants for immune-oncology agents.

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