The adenosine deaminase inhibitor 2'-deoxycoformycin (pentostatin, Nipent) has been used since 1982 to treat leukemia and lymphoma, but its mode of action is still unknown. Pentostatin was reported to decrease methylation of cellular RNA. We discovered that RNA extracted from pentostatin-treated cells or mice has enhanced immunostimulating capacities. Accordingly, we demonstrated in mice that the anticancer activity of pentostatin required Toll-like receptor 3, the type I interferon receptor, and T cells. Upon systemic administration of pentostatin, type I interferon is produced locally in tumors, resulting in immune cell infiltration. We combined pentostatin with immune checkpoint inhibitors and observed synergistic anti-cancer activities. Our work identifies pentostatin as a new class of an anticancer immunostimulating drug that activates innate immunity within tumor tissues and synergizes with systemic T cell therapies.
Keywords: Nipent; TLR3; cold tumor; epitranscriptomics; hot tumor; immune checkpoint inhibitors; interferon; methylation index; pentostatin; tumor microenvironment.