Langerhans, plasmacytoid dendritic and myeloid-derived suppressor cell levels in mycosis fungoides vary according to the stage of the disease
Our evolving understandings of cell-material interactions provide insights for using polymers to modulate cell behaviour that may lead to therapeutic applications. It is known that in certain cancers, myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) play vital roles in promoting tumour progression, chiefly because of their 'alternatively activated' (or M2) phenotype that orchestrates immunosuppression. In this study, we demonstrated that two cationic polymers - cationic dextran (C-dextran) and polyethyleneimine (PEI) - could directly remodel these cells into an anti-tumour, 'classically activated' (or M1) phenotype, thereby stimulating these cells to express tumouricidal cytokines, reactivating the T cell functions, and prolonging the lifespan of the mice model. Our investigations with knock-out mice further indicate that the functions of these cationic polymers require the involvement of toll-like receptor 4-mediated signalling. Taken together, our study suggests that these cationic polymers can effectively and directly re-polarize MDSCs from an immunosuppressive characteristic to an anti-tumour phenotype, leading to successful restoration of immune surveillance in the tumour microenvironment and elimination of tumour cells. Our findings may have immediate impact on further development of polymer-based therapeutics for cancer immunotherapy.