Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin Alters Melanoma Microenvironment Favoring Antitumor T Cell Responses and Improving M2 Macrophage Function

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Front Immunol


T cell response; antitumor immunity mechanisms; cutaneous metastatic melanoma; intralesional bacillus Calmette–Guérin; melanoma microenvironment


Intralesional Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) has long been a relatively inexpensive therapy for inoperable cutaneous metastatic melanoma (CMM), although intralesional BCG skin mechanisms remain understudied. We analyzed intralesional BCG-treated CMM lesions combined with in vitro studies to further investigate BCG-altered pathways. Since macrophages play a pivotal role against both cancer and mycobacterial infections, we hypothesized BCG regulates macrophages to promote antitumor immunity. Tumor-associated macrophages (M2) infiltrate melanomas and impair antitumor immunity. BCG-treated, in vitro-polarized M2 (M2-BCG) showed transcriptional changes involving inflammation, immune cell recruitment, cross talk, and activation pathways. Mechanistic network analysis indicated M2-BCG potential to improve interferon gamma (IFN-γ) responses. Accordingly, frequency of IFN-γ-producing CD4+ T cells responding to M2-BCG vs. mock-treated M2 increased (p < 0.05). Moreover, conditioned media from M2-BCG vs. M2 elevated the frequency of granzyme B-producing CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) facing autologous melanoma cell lines (p < 0.01). Furthermore, transcriptome analysis of intralesional BCG-injected CMM relative to uninjected lesions showed immune function prevalence, with the most enriched pathways representing T cell activation mechanisms. In vitro-infected MM-derived cell lines stimulated higher frequency of IFN-γ-producing TIL from the same melanoma (p < 0.05). Our data suggest BCG favors antitumor responses in CMM through direct/indirect effects on tumor microenvironment cell types including macrophages, T cells, and tumor itself.

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