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Large, Anionic Liposomes Enable Targeted Intraperitoneal Delivery of a TLR 7/8 Agonist To Repolarize Ovarian Tumors’ Microenvironment

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journal contribution
posted on 22.07.2021, 03:13 by Yanan Kang, Linda Flores, Hoi Wa Ngai, Yvonne R. Cornejo, Tom Haber, Marisa McDonald, Dayson Friaça Moreira, Joanna Marie Gonzaga, Wafa Abidi, Yijia Zhang, Mohamed Hammad, Marcin Kortylewski, Karen S. Aboody, Jacob M. Berlin
Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological malignancy in the United States. Current standard of treatment includes surgical debulking and chemotherapy, such as cisplatin and paclitaxel. However, the patients’ response rate for chemotherapy in ovarian cancer is not optimal, and they often develop chemoresistance and suffer from side effects. Current clinical trials make extensive use of immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) as a novel cancer immunotherapeutic strategy against ovarian tumors. However, the response rates for ICB antibodies remain limited to 10–20% of treated ovarian cancer patients despite the success of this approach in melanoma, renal, head and neck, and nonsmall cell lung cancers. This lack of efficacy is often attributed to the “cold” immune status of ovarian tumors, as these tumors often have a low number of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) but a high number of suppressive immune cells, including tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), or regulatory T cells (Tregs). Repolarizing TAMs could be a promising strategy to reshape the tumor immune microenvironment and promote antitumor activity when combined with ICBs. Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and 8 agonists, such as imiquimod and resiquimod, are potent immunostimulatory molecules with potential to repolarize macrophages. However, these small molecules have poor pharmacokinetic profiles and can induce severe side effects when administered systemically. Previously, our group demonstrated that various large, anionic nanomaterials (silica, PLGA, and polystyrene) specifically target TAMs when administered intraperitoneally (IP) to ovarian tumor-bearing mice. In the present study, we demonstrate that large, anionic liposomes administered IP also efficiently localize to TAMs and can be used to target the delivery of resiquimod. Resiquimod delivered in this targeted fashion promoted activation of M1 macrophages and T cell infiltration, while reducing the percentage of Tregs in the tumor microenvironment. Finally, liposome-formulated resiquimod significantly enhanced the efficacy of PD1 blockade against syngeneic ovarian tumors. We anticipate that further optimization of our liposomal delivery strategy can generate a clinically relevant strategy for more effective and safer immunotherapy for ovarian cancer patients.