Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are of major importance in cancer-related immune suppression, and tumor infiltration by CD163pos TAMs is associated with poor outcome in most human cancers. Therefore, therapeutic strategies for reprogramming TAMs from a tumor-supporting (M2-like) phenotype towards a tumoricidal (M1-like) phenotype are of great interest. Activation of the transcription factor STAT3 within the tumor microenvironment is associated with worse prognosis, and STAT3 activation promotes the immunosuppressive phenotype of TAMs. Therefore, we aimed to develop a drug for inhibition of STAT3 specifically within human TAMs by targeting the endocytic CD163 scavenger receptor, which is highly expressed on TAMs. Here, we report the first data on a CD163-targeted STAT3-inhibitory drug consisting of corosolic acid (CA) packaged within long-circulating liposomes (LCLs), which are CD163-targeted by modification with monoclonal anti-CD163 antibodies (αCD163)—CA-LCL-αCD163. We show, that activation of STAT3 (by phosphorylation) was inhibited by CA-LCL-αCD163 specifically within CD163pos cells, with minor effect on CD163neg cells. Furthermore, CA-LCL-αCD163 inhibited STAT3-regulated gene expression of IL-10, and increased expression of TNFα, thus indicating a pro-inflammatory effect of the drug on human macrophages. This M1-like reprogramming at the mRNA level was confirmed by significantly elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IFNγ, IL-12, TNFα, IL-2) in the culture medium. Since liposomes are attractive vehicles for novel anti-cancer drugs, and since direct TAM-targeting may decrease adverse effects of systemic inhibition of STAT3, the present results encourage future investigation of CA-LCL-αCD163 in the in vivo setting.
Andersen, M. N. R., Etzerodt, A., Graversen, J. H., Holthof, L. C., Moestrup, S. R. K., Hokland, M., & Møller, H. J. (2019). STAT3 inhibition specifically in human monocytes and macrophages by CD163-targeted corosolic acid-containing liposomes. Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy, 68(3), 489-502. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00262-019-02301-3