Nanoparticle delivery of immunostimulatory oligonucleotides enhances response to checkpoint inhibitor therapeutics

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020)



The recent advent of immune checkpoint inhibitor (CPI) antibodies has revolutionized many aspects of cancer therapy, but the efficacy of these breakthrough therapeutics remains limited, as many patients fail to respond for reasons that still largely evade understanding. An array of studies in human patients and animal models has demonstrated that local signaling can generate strongly immunosuppressive microenvironments within tumors, and emerging evidence suggests that delivery of immunostimulatory molecules into tumors can have therapeutic effects. Nanoparticle formulations of these cargoes offer a promising way to maximize their delivery and to enhance the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors. We developed a modular nanoparticle system capable of encapsulating an array of immunostimulatory oligonucleotides that, in some cases, greatly increase their potency to activate inflammatory signaling within immune cells in vitro. We hypothesized that these immunostimulatory nanoparticles could suppress tumor growth by activating similar signaling in vivo, and thereby also improve responsiveness to immune checkpoint inhibitor antibody therapies. We found that our engineered nanoparticles carrying a CpG DNA ligand of TLR9 can suppress tumor growth in several animal models of various cancers, resulting in an abscopal effect on distant tumors, and improving responsiveness to anti-CTLA4 treatment with combinatorial effects after intratumoral administration. Moreover, by incorporating tumor-homing peptides, immunostimulatory nucleotide-bearing nanoparticles facilitate antitumor efficacy after systemic intravenous (i.v.) administration.