Enzyme-responsive micellar JQ1 induces enhanced BET protein inhibition and immunotherapy of malignant tumors†
Bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) proteins are attractive targets for treating various malignancies including melanoma. The inhibition of BET bromodomains, e.g. with JQ1, is found to downregulate the expression of both c-MYC oncoprotein and programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1), which play a crucial role in tumor growth and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, respectively. The BET bromodomain inhibitors like JQ1 though exhibiting high selectivity and affinity show usually low bioavailability and efficacy in vivo due to fast clearance and inferior uptake by tumor cells. The therapeutic effect of JQ1 might further be lowered by drug resistance. Here, enzyme-responsive micellar JQ1 (mJQ1) was fabricated from a poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(L-tyrosine) copolypeptide to enhance JQ1 delivery and the immunotherapy of malignant melanoma. The in vitro results showed that mJQ1 induced clearly better repression of c-MYC and PD-L1 proteins, cell cycle arrest, cell inhibition, and apoptotic activity than free JQ1 in B16F10 cancer cells. The intratumoral administration of mJQ1 at 2.5 mg of JQ1 equiv. per kg was found to show better inhibition of B16F10 tumors in C57BL/6 mice than the intraperitoneal administration of free JQ1 at 50 mg kg−1. In particular, when combined with radiotherapy, mJQ1 effectively suppressed tumor growth and brought about strong local and systemic antitumor immunity as evidenced by elevated CD8+ T cells and increased ratios of CD8+ T cells to Tregs, affording significantly improved survival of B16F10 tumor-bearing mice than their JQ1 counterparts and marked growth suppression of distant tumors. The great potency of enzyme-responsive micellar JQ1 makes it interesting for immunotherapy of various tumors.