Cancers evade immune surveillance, which can be reversed through immune-checkpoint therapy in a small subset of cases. Here, we report that the MYC oncogene suppresses innate immune surveillance and drives resistance to immunotherapy. In 33 different human cancers, MYC genomic amplification and overexpression increased immune-checkpoint expression, predicted nonresponsiveness to immune-checkpoint blockade, and was associated with both Th2-like immune profile and reduced CD8 T-cell infiltration. MYC transcriptionally suppressed innate immunity and MHCI-mediated antigen presentation, which in turn impeded T-cell response. Combined, but not individual, blockade of PDL1 and CTLA4 could reverse MYC-driven immune suppression by leading to the recruitment of proinflammatory antigen-presenting macrophages with increased CD40 and MHCII expression. Depletion of macrophages abrogated the antineoplastic effects of PDL1 and CTLA4 blockade in MYC-driven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Hence, MYC is a predictor of immune-checkpoint responsiveness and a key driver of immune evasion through the suppression of proinflammatory macrophages. The immune evasion induced by MYC in HCC can be overcome by combined PDL1 and CTLA4 blockade.
Macrophage-mediated immune evasion is a therapeutic vulnerability of MYC-driven cancers, which has implications for prioritizing MYC-driven hepatocellular carcinoma for combination immunotherapy.