Titrating CD47 by mismatch CRISPR-interference reveals incomplete repression can eliminate IgG-opsonized tumors but limits induction of antitumor IgG

Phagocytic elimination of solid tumors by innate immune cells seems attractive for immunotherapy, particularly because of the possibilities for acquired immunity. However, the approach remains challenging, with blockade of the macrophage checkpoint CD47 working in immunodeficient mice and against highly immunogenic tumors but not in the clinic where tumors are poorly immunogenic. Even when mouse tumors of poorly immunogenic B16F10 melanoma are opsonized to drive engulfment with a suitable monoclonal antibody (mAb), anti-CD47 blockade remains insufficient. Using both in vitro immuno-tumoroids and in vivo mouse models, we show with CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) that a relatively uniform minimum repression of CD47 by 80% is needed for phagocytosis to dominate net growth when combined with an otherwise ineffective mAb (anti-Tyrp1). Heterogeneity enriches for CD47-high cells, but mice that eliminate tumors generate prophagocytic IgGs that increase in titer with CD47 repression and with tumor accumulation of macrophages, although deeper repression does not improve survival. Given well-known limitations of antibody permeation into solid tumors, our studies clarify benchmarks for CD47 disruption that should be more clinically feasible and safer but just as effective as complete ablation. Additionally, safe but ineffective opsonization in human melanoma trials suggests that combinations with deep repression of CD47 could prove effective and initiate durable immunity.

Genetic heterogeneity in p53-null leukemia increases transiently with spindle assembly checkpoint inhibition and is not rescued by p53

Chromosome gains or losses often lead to copy number variations (CNV) and loss of heterozygosity (LOH). Both quantities are low in hematologic “liquid” cancers versus solid tumors in data of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) that also shows the fraction of a genome affected by LOH is ~ one-half of that with CNV. Suspension cultures of p53-null THP-1 leukemia-derived cells conform to these trends, despite novel evidence here of genetic heterogeneity and transiently elevated CNV after perturbation. Single-cell DNAseq indeed reveals at least 8 distinct THP-1 aneuploid clones with further intra-clonal variation, suggesting ongoing genetic evolution. Importantly, acute inhibition of the mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) produces CNV levels that are typical of high-CNV solid tumors, with subsequent cell death and down-selection to novel CNV. Pan-cancer analyses show p53 inactivation associates with aneuploidy, but leukemias exhibit a weaker trend even though p53 inactivation correlates with poor survival. Overexpression of p53 in THP-1 does not rescue established aneuploidy or LOH but slightly increases cell death under oxidative or confinement stress, and triggers p21, a key p53 target, but without affecting net growth. Our results suggest that factors other than p53 exert stronger pressures against aneuploidy in liquid cancers, and identifying such CNV suppressors could be useful across liquid and solid tumor types.

Cooperative phagocytosis of solid tumours by macrophages triggers durable anti-tumour responses

In solid tumours, the abundance of macrophages is typically associated with a poor prognosis. However, macrophage clusters in tumour-cell nests have been associated with survival in some tumour types. Here, by using tumour organoids comprising macrophages and cancer cells opsonized via a monoclonal antibody, we show that highly ordered clusters of macrophages cooperatively phagocytose cancer cells to suppress tumour growth. In mice with poorly immunogenic tumours, the systemic delivery of macrophages with signal-regulatory protein alpha (SIRPα) genetically knocked out or else with blockade of the CD47–SIRPα macrophage checkpoint was combined with the monoclonal antibody and subsequently triggered the production of endogenous tumour-opsonizing immunoglobulin G, substantially increased the survival of the animals and helped confer durable protection from tumour re-challenge and metastasis. Maximizing phagocytic potency by increasing macrophage numbers, by tumour-cell opsonization and by disrupting the phagocytic checkpoint CD47–SIRPα may lead to durable anti-tumour responses in solid cancers.

Matrix Elasticity Directs Stem Cell Lineage Specification

Microenvironments appear important in stem cell lineage specification but can be difficult to adequately characterize or control with soft tissues. Naive mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are shown here to specify lineage and commit to phenotypes with extreme sensitivity to tissue-level elasticity. Soft matrices that mimic brain are neurogenic, stiffer matrices that mimic muscle are myogenic, and comparatively rigid matrices that mimic collagenous bone prove osteogenic. During the initial week in culture, reprogramming of these lineages is possible with addition of soluble induction factors, but after several weeks in culture, the cells commit to the lineage specified by matrix elasticity, consistent with the elasticity-insensitive commitment of differentiated cell types. Inhibition of nonmuscle myosin II blocks all elasticity-directed lineage specification–without strongly perturbing many other aspects of cell function and shape. The results have significant implications for understanding physical effects of the in vivo microenvironment and also for therapeutic uses of stem cells.