Treatment with the demethylating agent 5-Azacytidine leads to prolonged survival for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, and the demethylation induces upregulation of cancer-testis antigens. Cancer-testis antigens are well-known targets for immune recognition in cancer, and the immune system may have a role in this treatment regimen. We show here that 5-Azacytidine treatment leads to increased T-cell recognition of tumor cells. T-cell responses against a large panel of cancer-testis antigens were detected before treatment, and these responses were further induced upon initiation of treatment. These characteristics point to an ideal combination of 5-Azacytidine and immune therapy to preferentially boost T-cell responses against cancer-testis antigens. To initiate such combination therapy, essential knowledge is required about the general immune modulatory effect of 5-Azacytidine. We therefore examined potential treatment effects on both immune stimulatory (CD8 and CD4 T cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells) and immune inhibitory cell subsets (myeloid-derived suppressor cells and regulatory T cells). We observed a minor decrease and modulation of NK cells, but for all other populations no effects could be detected. Together, these data support a strategy for combining 5-Azacytidine treatment with immune therapy for potential clinical benefit.
Blood Cancer Journal, 2014, Vol 4, Issue 3, p. 1-9