Nanocarrier-mediated chemo-immunotherapy arrested cancer progression and induced tumor dormancy in desmoplastic melanoma

Qi Liu, Fengqian Chen, Lin Hou, Limei Shen, Xueqiong Zhang, Degeng Wang, Leaf Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


In desmoplastic melanoma, tumor cells and tumor-associated fibroblasts are the major dominators playing a critical role in the fibrosis morphology as well as the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME), compromising the efficacy of therapeutic options. To overcome this therapeutic hurdle, we developed an innovative chemo-immunostrategy based on targeted delivery of mitoxantrone (MIT) and celastrol (CEL), two potent medicines screened and selected with the best anticancer and antifibrosis potentials. Importantly, CEL worked in synergy with MIT to induce immunogenic tumor cell death. Here, we show that when effectively co-delivered to the tumor site at their optimal ratio by a TME-responsive nanocarrier, the 5:1 combination of MIT and CEL significantly triggered immunogenic tumor apoptosis and recovered tumor antigen recognition, thus eliciting overall antitumor immunity. Furthermore, the strong synergy benefitted the host in reduced drug exposure and side effects. Collectively, the nanocarrier-mediated chemo-immunotherapy successfully remodeled fibrotic and immunosuppressive TME, arrested cancer progression, and further inhibited tumor metastasis to major organs. The affected tumors remained dormant long after dosing stopped, resulting in a prolonged progression-free survival and sustained immune surveillance of the host bearing desmoplastic melanoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7812-7825
Number of pages14
JournalACS Nano
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 28 2018


  • celastrol
  • chemo-immunotherapy
  • desmoplastic melanoma
  • immunogenic cell death
  • mitoxantrone
  • tumor dormancy
  • tumor microenvironment


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