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Liposomal Nanoparticles Target TLR7/8-SHP2 to Repolarize Macrophages to Aid in Cancer Immunotherapy

Abstract Macrophages found in the tumor microenvironment play a crucial role in initiating an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment that negatively impacts immunotherapy efficacy and aids tumor progression and metastasis. Constituting the most abundant immune cell in tumor microenvironment (TME), tumor associated macrophages (TAMs) have emerged as an attractive approach for anti-cancer therapy. However, two major challenges need to be overcome for successfully utilizing macrophages for immunotherapy. First, tumors repolarize the TAMs predominantly to M2 tumor-aiding phenotype by secreting various immunosuppressive cytokines. Second, cancer cells overexpress a membrane protein CD47 that interacts with signal-regulating protein alpha (SIRPalpha) expressed on macrophages. This crosstalk provides a downregulatory signal in the form of activation of SHP1/2 that inhibits cancer cell phagocytosis, and CD47, therefore, functions as a “don’t-eat-me” signal. We rationalized that these challenges can be overcome by engineering a nanoparticle system that can deliver a rationale combination of immunomodulatory agents to the TAMs that can both repolarize the M2 macrophages to M1 phenotype efficiently and concurrently block CD47-SIRPalpha interactions by inhibiting SHP2 signaling. Herein, we designed a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) system loaded with amphiphilic R848-cholesterol in its hydrophobic lipid bilayer, while SHP099 gets encapsulated in the hydrophilic core. Our previous studies have shown that the conjugation of cholesterol to the inhibitor stabilizes the lipid bilayer at a high inhibitor concentration. The LNPs showed high optimal drug loading, size, and stability. In vitro studies showed that the M2 macrophages treated with the LNPs system repolarized to M1 phenotype and expressed co-stimulatory molecules while having enhanced phagocytic potential. In vivo efficacy studies in 4T1 tumor-bearing mice showed that LNPs exhibit superior anti-tumor efficacy compared to other treatments. We evaluated the effect of MARCO-targeted LPNs by the conjugating anti-MARCO antibody on the LPN surface. However, no comparable difference in treatment efficacy was observed between the targeted MARCO-LNPs and the non-targeted LNPs. These results demonstrate that the MARCO targeting system designed in this study is largely ineffective in the targeted delivery of its drug cargo specifically to TAMs. Thus, the lipid nanoparticle-mediated co-delivery of a rational combination of TLR7/8 agonist and SHP2 inhibitor in the TAMs increases M2 to M1 repolarization and phagocytosis potential of macrophages. Recommended Citation Malik, V., Ramesh, A. and Kulkarni, A.A. (2021), TLR7/8 Agonist and SHP2 Inhibitor Loaded Nanoparticle Enhances Macrophage Immunotherapy Efficacy. Adv. Therap., 4: 2100086. https://doi.org/10.1002/adtp.202100086