Proteolysis-targeting chimera against BCL-XL destroys tumor-infiltrating regulatory T cells


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play an important role in maintaining immune homeostasis and, within tumors, their upregulation is common and promotes an immunosuppressive microenvironment. Therapeutic strategies that can eliminate Tregs in the tumor (i.e., therapies that do not run the risk of affecting normal tissues), are urgently needed for the development of cancer immunotherapies. Here we report our discovery of B-cell lymphoma extra-large (BCL-XL) as a potential molecular target of tumor-infiltrating (TI) Tregs. We show that pharmacological degradation of BCL-XL using a newly developed platelet-sparing BCL-XL Proteolysis-targeting chimera (PROTAC) induces the apoptosis of TI-Tregs and the activation of TI-CD8+ T cells. Moreover, these activities result in an effective suppression of syngeneic tumor growth in immunocompetent, but not in immunodeficient or CD8+ T cell-depleted mice. Notably, treatment with BCL-XL PROTAC does not cause detectable damage within several normal tissues or thrombocytopenia. These findings identify BCL-XL as a target in the elimination of TI-Tregs as a component of cancer immunotherapies, and that the BCL-XL-specific PROTAC has the potential to be developed as a therapeutic for cancer immunotherapy.

In Nature Communications
Nick Borcherding
Nick Borcherding
Assistant Professor

My research includes systems immunology, single-cell sequencing technology, and computational frameworks.