ARTICLE ABSTRACTPancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an insidious disease with a low 5-year survival rate. PDAC is characterized by infiltration of abundant tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), which promote immune tolerance and immunotherapeutic resistance. Here we report that macrophage spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) promotes PDAC growth and metastasis. In orthotopic PDAC mouse models, genetic deletion of myeloid Syk reprogrammed macrophages into immunostimulatory phenotype, increased the infiltration, proliferation, and cytotoxicity of CD8+ T cells, and repressed PDAC growth and metastasis. Furthermore, gemcitabine (Gem) treatment induced an immunosuppressive microenvironment in PDAC by promoting protumorigenic polarization of macrophages. In contrast, treatment with the FDA-approved Syk inhibitor R788 (fostamatinib) remodeled the tumor immune microenvironment, “re-educated” protumorigenic macrophages towards an immunostimulatory phenotype and boosted CD8+ T-cell responses in Gem-treated PDAC in orthotopic mouse models and an ex vivo human pancreatic slice culture model. These findings illustrate the potential of Syk inhibition for enhancing the antitumor immune responses in PDAC and support the clinical evaluation of R788 either alone or together with Gem as a potential treatment strategy for PDAC.
Syk blockade induces macrophage polarization to an immunostimulatory phenotype, which enhances CD8+ T-cell responses and improves gemcitabine efficacy in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, a clinically challenging malignancy.