Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a leading cause of cancer-related death with a median survival time of 6-12 months. As most patients present with disseminated disease, the majority are offered palliative chemotherapy. With no approved treatment modalities for patients who progress on chemotherapy, we explored the effects of long-term Gemcitabine on the tumor microenvironment in order to identify potential therapeutic options in chemo-refractory PDAC. Using a combination of mouse models, patient-derived xenografts, primary and established cell lines, we first evaluated chemotherapy-induced alterations in the tumor secretome and immune surface proteins by high throughput proteomic arrays. In addition to enhancing antigen presentation and immune checkpoint expression, Gemcitabine consistently increased the synthesis of CCL/CXCL chemokines and TGFβ-associated signals. These secreted factors altered the composition of the tumor stroma, conferring Gemcitabine-resistance to cancer-associated fibroblasts in vitroand further enhancingTGFβ1 biosynthesis. We therefore combined Gemcitabine with anti-PD-1 in transgenic models of murine PDAC, which failed to alter disease course unless mice also underwent genetic or pharmacologic ablation of TGFβ signaling. In the setting of TGFβ signal deficiency, Gemcitabine and anti-PD-1 led to a robust CD8+ T-cell response and decrease in tumor burden, markedly enhancing overall survival. These results suggest that Gemcitabine may prime PDAC tumors for immune checkpoint inhibition by enhancing antigen presentation, but requires the inhibition of an immunosuppressive cytokine barrier. Given the current lack of third line treatment options, this approach warrants consideration in the clinical management of Gemcitabine-refractory PDAC.
Citation Format: Daniel R. Principe, Matthew Narbutis, Sandeep Kumar, Alex Park, Navin Viswakarma, Matthew J. Dorman, Suneel D. Kamath, Paul Grippo, Melissa L. Fishel, Rosa F. Hwang, Dinesh Thummuri, Patrick W. Underwood, Hidayatullah G. Munshi, Jose G. Trevino, Ajay Rana. Long-term gemcitabine treatment reshapes the pancreatic tumor microenvironment and sensitizes murine carcinoma to combination immunotherapy [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research 2020; 2020 Apr 27-28 and Jun 22-24. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2020;80(16 Suppl):Abstract nr 955.