Liver myeloid-derived suppressor cells expand in response to liver metastases in mice and inhibit the anti-tumor efficacy of anti-CEA CAR-T .
Chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cell (CAR-T) technology, a promising immunotherapeutic tool, has not been applied specifically to treat liver metastases (LM). While CAR-T delivery to LM can be optimized by regional intrahepatic infusion, we propose that liver CD11b+Gr-1+ myeloid-derived suppressor cells (L-MDSC) will inhibit the efficacy of CAR-T in the intrahepatic space. We studied anti-CEA CAR-T in a murine model of CEA+ LM and identified mechanisms through which L-MDSC expand and inhibit CAR-T function. We established CEA+ LM in mice and studied purified L-MDSC and responses to treatment with intrahepatic anti-CEA CAR-T infusions. L-MDSC expanded threefold in response to LM, and their expansion was dependent on GM-CSF, which was produced by tumor cells. L-MDSC utilized PD-L1 to suppress anti-tumor responses through engagement of PD-1 on CAR-T. GM-CSF, in cooperation with STAT3, promoted L-MDSC PD-L1 expression. CAR-T efficacy was rescued when mice received CAR-T in combination with MDSC depletion, GM-CSF neutralization to prevent MDSC expansion, or PD-L1 blockade. As L-MDSC suppressed anti-CEA CAR-T, infusion of anti-CEA CAR-T in tandem with agents targeting L-MDSC is a rational strategy for future clinical trials.