DOI: 10.1158/2326-6074.tumimm23-b038 ISSN: 2326-6074

Abstract B038: Targeting a Treg-specific deubiquitinase module for antitumor immune therapy

Deyu Fang
  • Cancer Research
  • Immunology


Checkpoint immunotherapies have transformed the treatment landscape for multiple human malignancies, but still with very limited success in treatment of many human cancers. A major hurdle is mediated by regulatory T (Treg) cells, which suppress the function of antitumor effector T cells. However, current approaches in targeting Treg to activate antitumor immune responses have shown only transient efficacy and are highly unspecific. Importantly, our recent studies, through unbiased CRISPR screening, identified the death from cancer cell signature gene USP22 required for optimal FoxP3 expression. USP22 genetic inhibition resulted in an approximately 15-25% reduction of FoxP3 expression in Tregs and partially diminishes Treg suppressive functions, which consequently results in elevated antitumor immunity against a broad spectrum of cancer types in mice. Therefore, a 20% reduction in FoxP3 protein expression, in this case, by USP22 inhibition, creates an ideal therapeutic window to boost antitumor immunity without triggering extensive autoimmune inflammatory responses (Nature, 2020). More recently, we further demonstrated that tumor microenvironment factors, including TGF-β, hypoxia, and tumor metabolites, induce Treg fitness/adaptation through selectively upregulating a deubiquitinase module, including USP21 and USP22 (Science Advances, 2022). Our ongoing study has identified USP22-specific small molecule inhibitors that largely diminish Treg fitness and dramatically inhibit tumor growth at a clinically relevant setting. In addition, our recent unpublished single-cell RNA-seq characterization revealed a novel function of the Treg-specific deubiquitination module in Treg terminal differentiation into a unique immune suppressive subpopulation, specifically in the tumor microenvironment. Collectively, our study defines a novel Treg deubiquitination module in tumor immunosurveillance and provides a rationale for the first Treg-specific targeting in antitumor immune therapy.

Citation Format: Deyu Fang. Targeting a Treg-specific deubiquitinase module for antitumor immune therapy [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference in Cancer Research: Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy; 2023 Oct 1-4; Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2023;11(12 Suppl):Abstract nr B038.

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