Neutrophils are closely involved in the regulation of tumor progression and formation of premetastatic niches. However, the mechanisms of their involvement and therapeutic regulation of these processes remain elusive. Here, we report a critical role of neutrophil peptidylarginine deiminase 4 (PAD4) in neutrophil migration in cancer. In several transplantable and genetically engineered mouse models, tumor growth was accompanied by significantly elevated enzymatic activity of neutrophil PAD4. Targeted deletion of PAD4 in neutrophils markedly decreased the intratumoral abundance of neutrophils and led to delayed growth of primary tumors and dramatically reduced lung metastases. PAD4-mediated neutrophil accumulation by regulating the expression of the major chemokine receptor CXCR2. PAD4 expression and activity as well as CXCR2 expression were significantly upregulated in neutrophils from patients with lung and colon cancers compared with healthy donors, and PAD4 and CXCR2 expression were positively correlated in neutrophils from patients with cancer. In tumor-bearing mice, pharmacologic inhibition of PAD4 with the novel PAD4 isoform-selective small molecule inhibitor JBI-589 resulted in reduced CXCR2 expression and blocked neutrophil chemotaxis. In mouse tumor models, targeted deletion of PAD4 in neutrophils or pharmacologic inhibition of PAD4 with JBI-589 reduced both primary tumor growth and lung metastases and substantially enhanced the effect of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Taken together, these results suggest a therapeutic potential of targeting PAD4 in cancer.
PAD4 regulates tumor progression by promoting neutrophil migration and can be targeted with a small molecule inhibitor to suppress tumor growth and metastasis and increase efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade therapy.