Repository logo

Upregulation of C/EBPα Inhibits Suppressive Activity of Myeloid Cells and Potentiates Antitumor Response in Mice and Patients with Cancer.

Published version

Repository DOI



Change log


Sarker, Debashis 
Reebye, Vikash 
Jarvis, Sheba 
Sodergren, Mikael H 


PURPOSE: To evaluate the mechanisms of how therapeutic upregulation of the transcription factor, CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein alpha (C/EBPα), prevents tumor progression in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and in different mouse tumor models. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We conducted a phase I trial in 36 patients with HCC (NCT02716012) who received sorafenib as part of their standard care, and were given therapeutic C/EBPα small activating RNA (saRNA; MTL-CEBPA) as either neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment. In the preclinical setting, the effects of MTL-CEBPA were assessed in several mouse models, including BNL-1ME liver cancer, Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC), and colon adenocarcinoma (MC38). RESULTS: MTL-CEBPA treatment caused radiologic regression of tumors in 26.7% of HCC patients with an underlying viral etiology with 3 complete responders. MTL-CEBPA treatment in those patients caused a marked decrease in peripheral blood monocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cell (M-MDSC) numbers and an overall reduction in the numbers of protumoral M2 tumor-associated macrophages (TAM). Gene and protein analysis of patient leukocytes following treatment showed CEBPA activation affected regulation of factors involved in immune-suppressive activity. To corroborate this observation, treatment of all the mouse tumor models with MTL-CEBPA led to a reversal in the suppressive activity of M-MDSCs and TAMs, but not polymorphonuclear MDSCs (PMN-MDSC). The antitumor effects of MTL-CEBPA in these tumor models showed dependency on T cells. This was accentuated when MTL-CEBPA was combined with checkpoint inhibitors or with PMN-MDSC-targeted immunotherapy. CONCLUSIONS: This report demonstrates that therapeutic upregulation of the transcription factor C/EBPα causes inactivation of immune-suppressive myeloid cells with potent antitumor responses across different tumor models and in cancer patients. MTL-CEBPA is currently being investigated in combination with pembrolizumab in a phase I/Ib multicenter clinical study (NCT04105335).



Animals, Antineoplastic Agents, CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-alpha, Carcinoma, Hepatocellular, Humans, Liver Neoplasms, Mice, Myeloid Cells, Sorafenib, Treatment Outcome, Tumor Cells, Cultured, Up-Regulation

Journal Title

Clin Cancer Res

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)