T-cell based immunotherapies that produce durable and sometimes curative responses in other malignancies have failed in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) due to poor T cell infiltration and tumor immunogenicity. We and others have demonstrated that induction of cellular senescence and its accompanying senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) can be a powerful way to enhance T cell infiltration into tumors and reactivate a different type of innate Natural Killer (NK) cell anti-tumor immunity that can mediate tumor control. Here, we found that the pancreas tumor microenvironment (TME) suppresses NK cell surveillance following therapy-induced senescence (TIS) with MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitor treatment through EZH2-mediated repression of pro-inflammatory SASP genes. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of EZH2 or its methyltransferase activity enhanced the production of pro-inflammatory SASP factors and led to NK and T cell infiltration and immune-mediated tumor control in transplanted and genetically engineered PDAC mouse models. Mechanistically, EZH2 suppression induced expression of SASP factors CCL2 and CXCL9/10 necessary for lymophocyte chemotaxis into the pancreas TME. EZH2 levels were also associated with reduced NK cell numbers, SASP expression, and overall survival in a PDAC patient cohort. Taken together these results demonstrate that EZH2 mediates repression of the pro-inflammatory SASP in the pancreas TME, and that EZH2 blockade in combination with senescence-inducing therapies could be a powerful means to reactivate absent NK and T cell surveillance in PDAC to achieve immune-mediated tumor responses.

Citation Format: Loretah Chibaya, Katherine C. Murphy, Yvette Lopez Diaz, Kelly D. DeMarco, Haibo Liu, Sneha Gopalan, Melissa Faulkner, Junhui Li, John P. Morris IV, Yu-jui Ho, Janelle Simon, Wei Luan, Amanda Kulick, Elisa de Stanchina, Karl Simin, Lihua J. Zhu, Thomas G. Fazzio, Scott W. Lowe, Marcus Ruscetti. EZH2 inhibition remodels the inflammatory senescence-associated secretory phenotype and promotes immune surveillance in PDAC [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Pancreatic Cancer; 2022 Sep 13-16; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(22 Suppl):Abstract nr C015.