Sci Rep. 2023 Sep 9;13(1):14907. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-41690-5.
All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), the retinoic acid receptors (RARs) agonist, regulates cell growth, differentiation, immunity, and survival. We report that ATRA-treatment repressed cancer growth in syngeneic immunocompetent, but not immunodeficient mice. The tumor microenvironment was implicated: CD8+ T cell depletion antagonized ATRA’s anti-tumorigenic effects in syngeneic mice. ATRA-treatment with checkpoint blockade did not cooperatively inhibit murine lung cancer growth. To augment ATRA’s anti-tumorigenicity without promoting its pro-tumorigenic potential, an RARγ agonist (IRX4647) was used since it regulates T cell biology. Treating with IRX4647 in combination with an immune checkpoint (anti-PD-L1) inhibitor resulted in a statistically significant suppression of syngeneic 344SQ lung cancers in mice-a model known for its resistance to checkpoints and characterized by low basal T cell and PD-L1 expression. This combined treatment notably elevated CD4+ T-cell presence within the tumor microenvironment and increased IL-5 and IL-13 tumor levels, while simultaneously decreasing CD38 in the tumor stroma. IL-5 and/or IL-13 treatments increased CD4+ more than CD8+ T-cells in mice. IRX4647-treatment did not appreciably affect in vitro lung cancer growth, despite RARγ expression. Pharmacokinetic analysis found IRX4647 plasma half-life was 6 h in mice. Yet, RARα antagonist (IRX6696)-treatment with anti-PD-L1 did not repress syngeneic lung cancer growth. Together, these findings provide a rationale for a clinical trial investigating an RARγ agonist to augment check point blockade response in cancers.