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Nanoparticle delivery improves the pharmacokinetic properties of cyclic dinucleotide STING agonists to open a therapeutic window for intravenous administration


Wehbe MMohamed , Wang-Bishop LLihong , Becker KWKyle W , Shae DDaniel , Baljon JJJessalyn J , He XXinyi , Christov PPlamen , Boyd KLKelli L , Balko JMJustin M , Wilson JTJohn T . Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society. 2020 11 12; 330(). 1118-1129


The stimulator of interferon genes (STING) pathway plays an important role in the immune surveillance of cancer and, accordingly, agonists of STING signaling have recently emerged as promising therapeutics for remodeling of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) and enhancing response rates to immune checkpoint inhibitors. 2’3′-cyclic guanosine monophosphate-adenosine monophosphate (2’3′-cGAMP) is the endogenous ligand for STING, but is rapidly metabolized and poorly membrane permeable, restricting its use to intratumoral administration. Nanoencapsulation has been shown to allow for systemic administration of cGAMP and other cyclic dinucleotides (CDN), but little is known about how nanocarriers affect important pharmacological properties that impact the efficacy and safety of CDNs. Using STING-activating nanoparticles (STING-NPs) – a polymersome platform designed to enhance cGAMP delivery – we investigate the pharmacokinetic (PK)-pharmacodynamic (PD) relationships that underlie the ability of intravenously (i.v.) administered STING-NPs to induce STING activation and inhibit tumor growth. First, we demonstrate that nanoencapsulation improves the half-life of encapsulated cGAMP by 40-fold, allowing for sufficient accumulation of cGAMP in tumors and activation of the STING pathway in the TME as assessed by western blot analysis and gene expression profiling. Nanoparticle delivery also changes the biodistribution profile, resulting in increased cGAMP accumulation and STING activation in the liver and spleen, which we identify as dose limiting organs. As a consequence of STING activation in tumors, i.v. administered STING-NPs reprogram the TME towards a more immunogenic antitumor milieu, characterized by an influx of >20-fold more CD4 and CD8 T-cells. Consequently, STING-NPs increased response rates to αPD-L1 antibodies, resulting in significant improvements in median survival time in a B16-F10 melanoma model. Additionally, we confirmed STING-NP monotherapy in an additional melanoma (YUMM1.7) and breast adenocarcinoma (E0771) models leading to >50% and 80% reduction in tumor burden, respectively, and significant increases in median survival time. Collectively, this work provides an examination of the PK-PD relationship governing STING activation upon systemic delivery using STING-NPs, providing insight for future optimization for nanoparticle-based STING agonists and other immunomodulating nanomedicines.