Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has a heterogeneous tumor microenvironment (TME) comprised of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), tumor-associated macrophages, neutrophils, regulatory T cells, and myofibroblasts. The precise mechanisms that regulate the composition of the TME and how they contribute to radiotherapy (RT) response remain poorly understood. In this study, we analyze changes in immune cell populations and circulating chemokines in patient samples and animal models of pancreatic cancer to characterize the immune response to radiotherapy. Further, we identify STAT3 as a key mediator of immunosuppression post-RT. We found granulocytic MDSCs (G-MDSCs) and neutrophils to be increased in response to RT in murine and human PDAC samples. We also found that RT-induced STAT3 phosphorylation correlated with increased MDSC infiltration and proliferation. Targeting STAT3 using an anti-sense oligonucleotide in combination with RT circumvented RT-induced MDSC infiltration, enhanced the proportion of effector T cells, and improved response to RT. In addition, STAT3 inhibition contributed to the remodeling of the PDAC extracellular matrix when combined with RT, resulting in decreased collagen deposition and fibrotic tissue formation. Collectively, our data provide evidence that targeting STAT3 in combination with RT can mitigate the pro-tumorigenic effects of RT and improve tumor response.
- Myeloid-derived suppressor cells
- Pancreatic adenocarcinoma