The pleiotropic cytokine interferon-gamma (IFNγ) is associated with cytostatic, antiproliferation, and proapoptotic functions in cancer cells. However, resistance to IFNγ occurs in many cancer cells, and the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. To investigate potential IFNγ-resistance mechanisms, we performed IFNγ-sensitivity screens in more than 40 cancer cell lines and characterized the sensitive and resistant cell lines. By applying CRISPR screening and transcriptomic profiling in both IFNγ-sensitive and IFNγ-resistant cells, we discovered that activation of double-strand break (DSB) repair genes could result in IFNγ resistance in cancer cells. Suppression of single-strand break (SSB) repair genes increased the dependency on DSB repair genes after IFNγ treatment. Furthermore, inhibition of the DSB repair pathway exhibited a synergistic effect with IFNγ treatment both in vitro and in vivo. The relationship between the activation of DSB repair genes and IFNγ resistance was further confirmed in clinical tumor profiles from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) cohorts. Our study provides comprehensive resources and evidence to elucidate a mechanism of IFNγ resistance in cancer and has the potential to inform combination therapies to overcome immunotherapy resistance.

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