Reprogramming Cancer Cells to Antigen-presenting Cells

November 20, 2023 / Volume 13, Issue 22

Alexandra G Ferreira, Olga Zimmermannova, Ilia Kurochkin, Ervin Ascic, Fritiof Åkerström, Carlos-Filipe Pereira

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Cancer cells evade the immune system by downregulating antigen presentation. Although immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and adoptive T-cell therapies revolutionized cancer treatment, their efficacy relies on the intrinsic immunogenicity of tumor cells and antigen presentation by dendritic cells. Here, we describe a protocol to directly reprogram murine and human cancer cells into tumor-antigen-presenting cells (tumor-APCs), using the type 1 conventional dendritic cell (cDC1) transcription factors PU.1, IRF8, and BATF3 delivered by a lentiviral vector. Tumor-APCs acquire a cDC1 cell-like phenotype, transcriptional and epigenetic programs, and function within nine days (Zimmermannova et al., 2023). Tumor-APCs express the hematopoietic marker CD45 and acquire the antigen presentation complexes MHC class I and II as well as co-stimulatory molecules required for antigen presentation to T cells, but do not express high levels of negative immune checkpoint regulators. Enriched tumor-APCs present antigens to Naïve CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, are targeted by activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes, and elicit anti-tumor responses in vivo. The tumor-APC reprogramming protocol described here provides a simple and robust method to revert tumor evasion mechanisms by increasing antigen presentation in cancer cells. This platform has the potential to prime antigen-specific T-cell expansion, which can be leveraged for developing new cancer vaccines, neoantigen discovery, and expansion of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. Key features • This protocol describes the generation of antigen-presenting cells from cancer cells by direct reprogramming using lineage-instructive transcription factors of conventional dendritic cells type I. • Verification of reprogramming efficiency by flow cytometry and functional assessment of tumor-APCs by antigen presentation assays.