Dose intensification of TRAIL-inducing ONC201 inhibits metastasis and promotes intratumoral NK cell recruitment

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Abstract

ONC201 is a first-in-class, orally active antitumor agent that upregulates cytotoxic TRAIL pathway signaling in cancer cells. ONC201 has demonstrated safety and preliminary efficacy in a first-in-human trial in which patients were dosed every 3 weeks. We hypothesized that dose intensification of ONC201 may impact antitumor efficacy. We discovered that ONC201 exerts dose- and schedule-dependent effects on tumor progression and cell death signaling in vivo. With dose intensification, we note a potent anti-metastasis effect and inhibition of cancer cell migration and invasion. Our preclinical results prompted a change in ONC201 dosing in all open clinical trials. We observed accumulation of activated NK+ and CD3+ cells within ONC201-treated tumors and that NK cell depletion inhibits ONC201 efficacy in vivo, including against TRAIL/ONC201-resistant Bax–/– tumors. Immunocompetent NCR1-GFP mice, in which NK cells express GFP, demonstrated GFP+ NK cell infiltration of syngeneic MC38 colorectal tumors. Activation of primary human NK cells and increased degranulation occurred in response to ONC201. Coculture experiments identified a role for TRAIL in human NK-mediated antitumor cytotoxicity. Preclinical results indicate the potential utility for ONC201 plus anti–PD-1 therapy. We observed an increase in activated TRAIL-secreting NK cells in the peripheral blood of patients after ONC201 treatment. The results offer what we believe to be a unique pathway of immune stimulation for cancer therapy.

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