The main reason why tumours are not controlled by the immune system is that, unlike pathogens, they do not express potent tumour rejection antigens (TRAs). Tumour vaccination aims at stimulating a systemic immune response targeted to, mostly weak, antigens expressed in the disseminated tumour lesions. Main challenges in developing effective vaccination protocols are the identification of potent and broadly expressed TRAs and effective adjuvants to stimulate a robust and durable immune response. Here we describe an alternative approach in which the expression of new, and thereby potent, antigens are induced in tumour cells by inhibiting nonsense-mediated messenger RNA decay (NMD). Small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated inhibition of NMD in tumour cells led to the expression of new antigenic determinants and their immune-mediated rejection. In subcutaneous and metastatic tumour models, tumour-targeted delivery of NMD factor-specific siRNAs conjugated to oligonucleotide aptamer ligands led to significant inhibition of tumour growth that was superior to that of vaccination with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-expressing irradiated tumour cells, and could be further enhanced by co-stimulation. Tumour-targeted NMD inhibition forms the basis of a simple, broadly useful, and clinically feasible approach to enhance the antigenicity of disseminated tumours leading to their immune recognition and rejection. The cell-free chemically synthesized oligonucleotide backbone of aptamer-siRNAs reduces the risk of immunogenicity and enhances the feasibility of generating reagents suitable for clinical use.
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