Drug efflux and enzymatic drug degradation are two cellular mechanisms that contribute to drug resistance in many cancers. Herein, we report the synthesis and in vitro activity of a pro-immunostimulant that exploits both processes in tandem to selectively confer cancer-mediated immunogenicity. We demonstrate that an imidazoquinoline pro-immunostimulant is inactive until it is selectively metabolized to an active immunostimulant by an endogenous α-mannosidase enzyme expressed within multidrug-resistant cancer cells. Following conversion, the immunostimulant is transported to the extracellular space via drug efflux, resulting in the activation of model bystander immune cells. Taken together, these results suggest that enzyme-directed immunostimulants can couple immunogenicity to these mechanisms of drug resistance. We name this process bystander-assisted immunotherapy, and envision that it could be advanced to treat drug-resistant diseases that rely on enzymatic degradation or drug efflux to persist.
Publication Date:March 19, 2018