Immunosuppressive elements within the tumor microenvironment, such as tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), can present a barrier to successful antitumor responses by cytolytic T cells. Here we employed preclinical syngeneic p53 null mouse models of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) to develop a treatment regimen that harnessed the immunostimulatory effects of low-dose cyclophosphamide coupled with the pharmacologic inhibition of TAMs using either a small-molecule CSF1R inhibitor or an anti-CSF1R antibody. This therapeutic combination was effective in treating several highly aggressive TNBC murine mammary tumor and lung metastasis models. Single-cell RNA sequencing characterized tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes including Th cells and antigen-presenting B cells that were highly enriched in responders to combination therapy. In one model that exhibited long-term posttreatment tumor regression, high-dimensional imaging techniques identified the close spatial localization of B220+/CD86+-activated B cells and CD4+ T cells in tertiary lymphoid structures that were present up to 6 weeks posttreatment. The transcriptional and metabolic heterogeneity of TAMs was also characterized in two closely related claudin-low/mesenchymal subtype tumor models with differential treatment responses. A murine TAM signature derived from the T12 model was highly conserved in human claudin-low breast cancers, and high expression of the TAM signature correlated with reduced overall survival in patients with breast cancer. This TAM signature may help identify human patients with claudin-low breast cancer that will benefit from the combination of cyclophosphamide and anti-CSF1R therapy. These studies illustrate the complexity of the tumor immune microenvironment and highlight different immune responses that result from rational immunotherapy combinations.

Significance:

Immunostimulatory chemotherapy combined with pharmacologic inhibition of TAMs results in durable treatment responses elicited by Th cells and B cells in claudin-low TNBC models.

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