The BET Protein Inhibitor JQ1 Decreases Hypoxia and Improves the Therapeutic Benefit of Anti-PD-1 in a High-Risk Neuroblastoma Mouse Model

Delphine Sauvage, Manon Bosseler, Elodie Viry, Georgia Kanli, Anais Oudin, Guy Berchem, Olivier Keunen, Bassam Janji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Anti-programmed death 1 (PD-1) is a revolutionary treatment for many cancers. The response to anti-PD-1 relies on several properties of tumor and immune cells, including the expression of PD-L1 and PD-1. Despite the impressive clinical benefit achieved with anti-PD-1 in several cancers in adults, the use of this therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma remains modest. Here, we evaluated the therapeutic benefit of anti-PD-1 in combination with JQ1 in a highly relevant TH-MYCN neuroblastoma transgenic mouse model. JQ1 is a small molecule inhibitor of the extra-terminal domain (BET) family of bromodomain proteins, competitively binding to bromodomains. Using several neuroblastoma cell lines in vitro, we showed that JQ1 inhibited hypoxia-dependent induction of HIF-1α and decreased the expression of the well-known HIF-1α downstream target gene CA9. Using MRI relaxometry performed on TH-MYCN tumor-bearing mice, we showed that JQ1 decreases R2* in tumors, a parameter associated with intra-tumor hypoxia in pre-clinical settings. Decreasing hypoxia by JQ1 was associated with improved blood vessel quality and integrity, as revealed by CD31 and αSMA staining on tumor sections. By analyzing the immune landscape of TH-MYCN tumors in mice, we found that JQ1 had no major impact on infiltrating immune cells into the tumor microenvironment but significantly increased the percentage of CD8+ PD-1+, conventional CD4+ PD-1+, and Treg PD-1+ cells. While anti-PD-1 monotherapy did not affect TH-MYCN tumor growth, we showed that combinatorial therapy associating JQ1 significantly decreased the tumor volume and improved the therapeutic benefit of anti-PD-1. This study provided the pre-clinical proof of concept needed to establish a new combination immunotherapy approach that may create tremendous enthusiasm for treating high-risk childhood neuroblastoma.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2783
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2022


  • combinatorial therapy
  • epigenetic drugs
  • hypoxia
  • immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • immunotherapy
  • JQ1
  • neuroblastoma
  • PD-1/PD-L1
  • tumor vasculature


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