Separating autoimmunity and anti-tumor immunity

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overexpression of inducible HSP70 (HSP70i) in tumors is exploited as a target for immunotherapy ofmelanoma and other cancers. HSP70i can also funnel external stress into an autoimmune response. Asreported in Science Translational Medicine, we identified a peptide within HSP70i responsible for activatinghuman dendritic cells (DCs) and developed HSP70iQ435A, a mutant DNA isoform with a single amino acid modification. The resulting gene product supports a tolerizing DC phenotype while preventing and even reversing autoimmunity in T cell receptor transgenic mice. T cells from treated mice, however, retain the ability to control melanoma once removed from the tolerizing environment and adoptively transferred into tumor bearing animals. DNA vaccinated mice also develop robust humoral responses to HSP70i that contain tumor growth. Protective responses were observed in CD8 knockout mice, and after adoptive B cell transfer to tumor challenged, wild-type mice. Our exciting preliminary data strongly suggest that HSP70iQ435A will suppress autoimmunity while supporting anti-tumor effects. The ‘stressed’ microenvironment within tumors leads to HSP70i overexpression that drives T cell recruitment and susceptibility to anti-HSP70 antibodies, whereas mutant HSP70 supports immune tolerance in the skin to prevent loss of normal pigment cells. We hypothesize that HSP70iQ435A polarizes DCs to support B cell responses to HSP70i surface expressed by tumor cells while preventing migration of MAA reactive T cells to normal tissues. Thus tumors are targeted by a combination of antibodies targeting the HSP70i c-terminus protruding from the membrane, and infiltrating T cells, while normal tissue cells are undisturbed through lack of HSP70i surface expression and reduced CTL recruitment. We will measure the ability of HSP70iQ435A to interfere with severe side effects of immunotherapy including graft versus host disease, and unravel the immune mechanism underlying divergent responses to HSP70iQ435A, addressing the consequences of treatment for the physiology and function of immune cells and their targets. A spontaneous swine model of melanoma and vitiligo is included to further the application of HSP70iQ435A.
Effective start/end date8/4/177/31/22


  • National Cancer Institute (7R01CA191317-03)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.