Nanoparticle-Mediated Trapping of Wnt Family Member 5A in Tumor Microenvironments Enhances Immunotherapy for B‑Raf Proto-Oncogene Mutant Melanoma

Development of an effective treatment against advanced tumors remains a major challenge for cancer immunotherapy. Approximately 50% of human melanoma is driven by B-Raf proto-oncogene mutation (BRAF mutant). Tumors with such mutation are desmoplastic, highly immunosuppressive, and often resistant to immune checkpoint therapies. We have shown that immunotherapy mediated by low-dose doxorubicin-induced immunogenic cell death was only partially effective for this type of tumor and not effective in long-term inhibition of tumor progression. Wnt family member 5A (Wnt5a), a signaling protein highly produced by BRAF mutant melanoma cells, has been implicated in inducing dendritic cell tolerance and tumor fibrosis, thus hindering effective antigen presentation and T-cell infiltration. We hypothesized that Wnt5a is a key molecule controlling the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment in metastatic melanoma. Accordingly, we have designed and generated a trimeric trap protein, containing the extracellular domain of Fizzled 7 receptor that binds Wnt5a with a Kd ∼ 278 nM. Plasmid DNA encoding for the Wnt5a trap was delivered to the tumor by using cationic lipid-protamine-DNA nanoparticles. Expression of Wnt5a trap in the tumor, although transient, was greater than that of any other major organs including liver, resulting in a significant reduction of the Wnt5a level in the tumor microenvironment without systematic toxicity. Significantly, combination of Wnt5a trapping and low-dose doxorubicin showed great tumor growth inhibition and host survival prolongation. Our findings indicated that efficient local Wnt5a trapping significantly remodeled the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment to facilitate immunogenic cell-death-mediated immunotherapy.