Dechen Wangmo, Travis J. Gates, Xianda Zhao, Ruping Sun, Subbaya Subramanian

Centrosomal Protein 55 (CEP55) Drives Immune Exclusion and Resistance to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Colorectal Cancer

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology
  • Immunology

Colorectal cancer (CRC) currently ranks as the third most common cancer in the United States, and its incidence is on the rise, especially among younger individuals. Despite the remarkable success of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in various cancers, most CRC patients fail to respond due to intrinsic resistance mechanisms. While microsatellite instability-high phenotypes serve as a reliable positive predictive biomarker for ICI treatment, the majority of CRC patients with microsatellite-stable (MSS) tumors remain ineligible for this therapeutic approach. In this study, we investigated the role of centrosomal protein 55 (CEP55) in shaping the tumor immune microenvironment in CRC. CEP55 is overexpressed in multiple cancer types and was shown to promote tumorigenesis by upregulating the PI3K/AKT pathway. Our data revealed that elevated CEP55 expression in CRC was associated with reduced T cell infiltration, contributing to immune exclusion. As CRC tumors progressed, CEP55 expression increased alongside sequential mutations in crucial driver genes (APC, KRAS, TP53, and SMAD4), indicating its involvement in tumor progression. CEP55 knockout significantly impaired tumor growth in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that CEP55 plays a crucial role in tumorigenesis. Furthermore, the CEP55 knockout increased CD8+ T cell infiltration and granzyme B production, indicating improved anti-tumor immunity. Additionally, we observed reduced regulatory T cell infiltration in CEP55 knockout tumors, suggesting diminished immune suppression. Most significantly, CEP55 knockout tumors demonstrated enhanced responsiveness to immune checkpoint inhibition in a clinically relevant orthotopic CRC model. Treatment with anti-PD1 significantly reduced tumor growth in CEP55 knockout tumors compared to control tumors, suggesting that inhibiting CEP55 could improve the efficacy of ICIs. Collectively, our study underscores the crucial role of CEP55 in driving immune exclusion and resistance to ICIs in CRC. Targeting CEP55 emerges as a promising therapeutic strategy to sensitize CRC to immune checkpoint inhibition, thereby improving survival outcomes for CRC patients.

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