Background Treatments for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma are poorly effective, at least partly due to the tumor's immune-suppressive stromal compartment. New evidence of positive effects on immune responses in the tumor microenvironment (TME), compelled us to test the combination of gemcitabine (GEM), a standard chemotherapeutic for pancreatic cancer, with nicotinamide (NAM), the amide form of niacin (vitamin B 3), in mice with pancreatic cancer. Methods Various mouse tumor models of pancreatic cancer, that is, orthotopic Panc-02 and KPC (Kras G12D, p53 R172H, Pdx1-Cre) grafts, were treated alternately with NAM and GEM for 2 weeks, and the effects on efficacy, survival, stromal architecture and tumor-infiltrating immune cells was examined by immunohistochemistry (IHC), flow cytometry, Enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT), T cell depletions in vivo, Nanostring analysis and RNAscope. Results A significant reduction in tumor weight and number of metastases was found, as well as a significant improved survival of the NAM+GEM group compared with all control groups. IHC and flow cytometry showed a significant decrease in tumor-associated macrophages and myeloid-derived suppressor cells in the tumors of NAM+GEM-treated mice. This correlated with a significant increase in the number of CD4 and CD8 T cells of NAM+GEM-treated tumors, and CD4 and CD8 T cell responses to tumor-associated antigen survivin, most likely through epitope spreading. In vivo depletions of T cells demonstrated the involvement of CD4 T cells in the eradication of the tumor by NAM+GEM treatment. In addition, remodeling of the tumor stroma was observed with decreased collagen I and lower expression of hyaluronic acid binding protein, reorganization of the immune cells into lymph node like structures and CD31 positive vessels. Expression profiling for a panel of immuno-oncology genes revealed significant changes in genes involved in migration and activation of T cells, attraction of dendritic cells and epitope spreading. Conclusion This study highlights the potential of NAM+GEM as immunotherapy for advanced pancreatic cancer.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding This work was supported by the Anticancer Fund, a private donation of Janet and Marty Spatz, NCI cancer center support P30CA013330 (Flow Cytometry Core, Pathology Core), and IR was supported by the FWO Odysseus Program (Research Foundation Flanders), and OL is recipient of a Fellowship (FWOTM904, Research Foundation Flanders).
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