Division of Pathogenic Biochemistry, Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama, Sugitani, Toyama, Japan.
While cancer development and progression can be controlled by cytotoxic T cells, it is also known that tumor-specific CD8+T cells become functionally impaired by acquiring a group of inhibitory receptors known as immune checkpoints. Amongst those, programmed death-1 (PD-1) is one of the most recognized negative regulators of T cell function. In non-small lung cancers (NSCLCs), the aberrant activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is known to induce PD-L1 expression and further the treatment with gefitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) for EGFR, decrease the expression of PD-L1 on NSCLC. Given the acquired resistance to gefitinib treatment frequently observed by developing secondary-site mutations limiting its efficacy, it is important to understand the downstream mechanism of activated-EGFR signaling for regulating PD-L1 in NSCLC. In this study, we demonstrated that AKT-STAT3 pathway could be a potential target for regulating the surface expression of PD-L1 on NSCLCs with aberrant EGFR activity and, further, the inhibition of AKT or STAT3 activity could down-regulate the expression of PD-L1 even in gefitinib-resistant NSCLCs. These results highlight an importance of AKT-STAT3 pathway as a promising target for potentiating anti-tumor immune responses by regulating PD-L1 expression on cancer cells with aberrant EGFR activity.
Keywords: non-small lung cancer, EGFR, AKT, STAT3, PD-L1