Bromodomain inhibition exerts its therapeutic potential in malignant pleural mesothelioma by promoting immunogenic cell death and changing the tumor immune-environment

Chiara Riganti, Marcello Francesco Lingua, Iris Chiara Salaroglio, Chiara Falcomatà, Luisella Righi, Deborah Morena, Francesca Picca, Daniele Oddo, Joanna Kopecka, Monica Pradotto, Roberta Libener, Sara Orecchia, Paolo Bironzo, Valentina Comunanza, Federico Bussolino, Silvia Novello, Giorgio Vittorio Scagliotti, Federica Di Nicolantonio, Riccardo Taulli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Systemic treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is moderately active for the intrinsic pharmacological resistance of MPM cell and its ability to induce an immune suppressive environment. Here we showed that the expression of bromodomain (BRD) proteins BRD2, BRD4 and BRD9 was significantly higher in human primary MPM cells compared to normal mesothelial cells (HMC). Nanomolar concentrations of bromodomain inhibitors (BBIs) JQ1 or OTX015 impaired patient-derived MPM cell proliferation and induced cell-cycle arrest without affecting apoptosis. Importantly, BBIs primed MPM cells for immunogenic cell death, by increasing extracellular release of ATP and HMGB1, and by promoting membrane exposure of calreticulin and ERp57. Accordingly, BBIs activated dendritic cell (DC)-mediated phagocytosis and expansion of CD8+ T-lymphocyte clones endorsed with antitumor cytotoxic activity. BBIs reduced the expression of the immune checkpoint ligand PD-L1 in MPM cells; while both CD8+ and CD4+ T-lymphocytes co-cultured with JQ1-treated MPM cells decreased PD-1 expression, suggesting a disruption of the immune-suppressive PD-L1/PD-1 axis. Additionally, BBIs reduced the expansion of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) induced by MPM cells. Finally, a preclinical model of MPM confirmed that the anti-tumor efficacy of JQ1 was largely due to its ability to restore an immune-active environment, by increasing intra-tumor DC and CD8+ T-lymphocytes, and decreasing MDSC. Thereby, we propose that, among novel drugs, BBIs should be investigated for MPM treatment for their combined activity on both tumor cells and surrounding immune-environment.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 23 2017


  • bromodomain inhibitors
  • immune checkpoints
  • immunogenic cell death
  • malignant pleural mesothelioma
  • myeloid-derived suppressor cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology


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