Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Using Natural Adjuvants to Stimulate Anti-Tumour Immune Responses

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posted on 2021-11-15, 05:30 authored by Kuhn, Sabine

The anti-tumour immune response is often not potent enough to prevent or eradicate disease. Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen-presenting cells that are critical for the initiation of immune responses. While DCs frequently infiltrate tumours, lack of activation together with immuno-suppressive factors from the tumour can hamper an effective anti-tumour immune response.

In this thesis, the ability of microbial stimuli and danger signals to overcome suppression and re-programme DCs and macrophages to an immuno-stimulatory phenotype was investigated. Whole live Mycobacterium smegmatis and BCG were used to provide multiple pathogen-associated molecular patterns. The intracellularly-recognised toll-like-receptor (TLR) ligands CpG and Poly IC, as well as the extracelullarly recognised TLR ligand LPS, and the danger signal monosodium-urate crystals (MSU) were also included.

Bone-marrow derived DCs were found to respond to all adjuvants in vitro and DCs in tumour cell suspensions could be activated ex vivo. To assess the ability of adjuvants to enhance anti-tumour responses in vivo, immune-competent mice bearing established subcutaneous B16F1 melanomas were injected peri-tumorally with the different adjuvants. In line with previous reports, CpG treatment was effective in delaying tumour growth and increasing survival. A similar effect was found with Poly IC, but not with LPS, M. smegmatis, BCG or MSU alone. Combination of M. smegmatis + MSU, however, significantly delayed tumour growth and prolonged survival, while combinations of MSU + BCG or LPS were ineffective. Similar results were obtained using the B16.OVA melanoma and E.G7-OVA thymoma subcutaneous tumour models. In addition, Poly IC and MSU + M. smegmatis reduced primary tumour growth as well as lung metastases in the orthotopic 4T1 breast carcinoma model.

Both Poly IC and MSU + M. smegmatis elicited an anti-tumour immune response that required CD8 T cells as well as NK cells. These treatments also resulted in increased proliferation of CD8 T cells and NK cells in tumour-draining lymph nodes, augmented infiltration of effector cells into the tumour, as well as enhanced production of in ammatory cytokines by effector cells and DCs in tumours. In addition, MSU + M. smegmatis also stimulated CD4 T cell proliferation, tumour-infiltrationand activation, while at the same time decreasing the frequency of regulatory T cells in tumours.

Activation of a successful immune response to tumours was associated with early induction of IL-12 and IFNʸ, as well as moderate levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines at the tumour site and systemically. Furthermore, anti-tumour activity correlated with the induction of inflammatory monocyte-derived DCs in tumour-draining lymph nodes. These DCs were also observed in adjuvant treated tumours and their appearance was preceded by accumulation of inflammatory monocytes at the tumour site.

These findings suggest that specific natural adjuvants can successfully modify the tumour environment and enhance the innate and adaptive anti-tumour immune response to delay tumour progression and increase survival.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Biomedical Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Ronchese, Franca; Kirman, Joanna