Leptin Augments Antitumor Immunity in Obesity by Repolarizing Tumor-Associated Macrophages.


Although obesity can promote cancer, it may also increase immunotherapy efficacy in what has been termed the obesity-immunotherapy paradox. Mechanisms of this effect are unclear, although obesity alters key inflammatory cytokines and can promote an inflammatory state that may modify tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and tumor-associated macrophage populations. To identify mechanisms by which obesity affects antitumor immunity, we examined changes in cell populations and the role of the proinflammatory adipokine leptin in immunotherapy. Single-cell RNAseq demonstrated that obesity decreased tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte frequencies, and flow cytometry confirmed altered macrophage phenotypes with lower expression of inducible NO synthase and MHC class II in tumors of obese animals. When treated with anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) Abs, however, obese mice had a greater absolute decrease in tumor burden than lean mice and a repolarization of the macrophages to inflammatory M1-like phenotypes. Mechanistically, leptin is a proinflammatory adipokine that is induced in obesity and may mediate enhanced antitumor immunity in obesity. To directly test the effect of leptin on tumor growth and antitumor immunity, we treated lean mice with leptin and observed tumors over time. Treatment with leptin, acute or chronic, was sufficient to enhance antitumor efficacy similar to anti-PD-1 checkpoint therapy. Further, leptin and anti-PD-1 cotreatment may enhance antitumor effects consistent with an increase in M1-like tumor-associated macrophage frequency compared with non-leptin-treated mice. These data demonstrate that obesity has dual effects in cancer through promotion of tumor growth while simultaneously enhancing antitumor immunity through leptin-mediated macrophage reprogramming.