Inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) antagonists demonstrate divergent immunomodulatory properties in human immune subsets with implications for combination therapy.
Inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) are critical in regulating apoptosis resistance in cancer. Antagonists of IAPs, such as LCL161, are in clinical development and show promise as anti-cancer agents for solid and hematological cancers, with preliminary data suggesting they may act as immunomodulators. IAP antagonists hypersensitize tumor cells to TNF-α-mediated apoptosis, an effect that may work in synergy with that of cancer vaccines. This study aimed to further investigate the immunomodulatory properties of LCL161 on human immune subsets. T lymphocytes treated with LCL161 demonstrated significantly enhanced cytokine secretion upon activation, with little effect on CD4 and CD8 T-cell survival or proliferation. LCL161 treatment of peripheral blood mononuclear cells significantly enhanced priming of naïve T cells with synthetic peptides in vitro. Myeloid dendritic cells underwent phenotypic maturation upon IAP antagonism and demonstrated a reduced capacity to cross-present a tumor antigen-based vaccine. These effects are potentially mediated through an observed activation of the canonical and non-canonical NF-κB pathways, following IAP antagonism with a resulting upregulation of anti-apoptotic molecules. In conclusion, this study demonstrated the immunomodulatory properties of antagonists at physiologically relevant concentrations and indicates their combination with immunotherapy requires further investigation.