Ward, et al; “Epigenetic priming by hypomethylation enhances the immunogenic potential of tolinapant in T-cell lymphoma”; Cancer Research Communications, 2024

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Programmed cell death mechanisms are important for the regulation of tumor development and progression. Evasion of and resistance to apoptosis are significant factors in tumorigenesis and drug resistance. Bypassing apoptotic pathways and eliciting another form of regulated cell death, namely necroptosis, an immunogenic cell death (ICD), may override apoptotic resistance. Here, we present the mechanistic rationale for combining tolinapant, an antagonist of the inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAP), with decitabine, a hypomethylating agent (HMA), in T-cell lymphoma (TCL). Tolinapant treatment alone of TCL cells in vitro and in syngeneic in vivo models demonstrated that ICD markers can be upregulated, and we have shown that epigenetic priming with decitabine further enhances this effect. The clinical relevance of ICD markers was confirmed by the direct measurement of plasma proteins from peripheral TCL patients treated with tolinapant. We showed increased levels of necroptosis in TCL lines, along with the expression of cancer-specific antigens (such as cancer testis antigens) and increases in genes involved in interferon signaling induced by HMA treatment, together deliver a strong adaptive immune response to the tumor. These results highlight the potential of a decitabine and tolinapant combination for TCL and could lead to clinical evaluation.