Tumor immune evasion arises through loss of TNF sensitivity

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Abstract

Immunotherapy has revolutionized outcomes for cancer patients, but the mechanisms of resistance remain poorly defined. We used a series of whole-genome clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)–based screens performed in vitro and in vivo to identify mechanisms of tumor immune evasion from cytotoxic lymphocytes [CD8+ T cells and natural killer (NK) cells]. Deletion of key genes within the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) signaling, interferon-γ (IFN-γ) signaling, and antigen presentation pathways provided protection of tumor cells from CD8+ T cell–mediated killing and blunted antitumor immune responses in vivo. Deletion of a number of genes in the TNF pathway also emerged as the key mechanism of immune evasion from primary NK cells. Our screens also identified that the metabolic protein 2-aminoethanethiol dioxygenase (Ado) modulates sensitivity to TNF-mediated killing by cytotoxic lymphocytes and is required for optimal control of tumors in vivo. Remarkably, we found that tumors delete the same genes when exposed to perforin-deficient CD8+ T cells, demonstrating that the dominant immune evasion strategy used by tumor cells is acquired resistance to T cell–derived cytokine-mediated antitumor effects. We demonstrate that TNF-mediated bystander killing is a potent T cell effector mechanism capable of killing antigen-negative tumor cells. In addition to highlighting the importance of TNF in CD8+ T cell– and NK cell–mediated killing of tumor cells, our study also provides a comprehensive picture of the roles of the TNF, IFN, and antigen presentation pathways in immune-mediated tumor surveillance.

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