Immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive transfer of gene-engineered T cells have emerged as novel therapeutic modalities for hard-to-treat solid tumors; however, many patients are refractory to these immunotherapies, and the mechanisms underlying tumor immune resistance have not been fully elucidated. By comparing the tumor microenvironment of checkpoint inhibition–sensitive and –resistant murine solid tumors, we observed that the resistant tumors had low immunogenicity. We identified antigen presentation by CD11b + F4/80 + tumor–associated macrophages (TAMs) as a key factor correlated with immune resistance. In the resistant tumors, TAMs remained inactive and did not exert antigen-presenting activity. Targeted delivery of a long peptide antigen to TAMs by using a nano-sized hydrogel (nanogel) in the presence of a TLR agonist activated TAMs, induced their antigen-presenting activity, and thereby transformed the resistant tumors into tumors sensitive to adaptive immune responses such as adoptive transfer of tumor-specific T cell receptor–engineered T cells. These results indicate that the status and function of TAMs have a significant impact on tumor immune sensitivity and that manipulation of TAM functions would be an effective approach for improving the efficacy of immunotherapies.
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