STAT6 is a major factor in MF/SS tumorigenesis and a prospective therapeutic target for intervention.
STAT6 promotes proliferation and invasion of MF/SS malignant lymphocytes while progressively depressing the anti-tumor immune response.
The signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (STAT6) is a critical up-stream mediator of interleukin-13 (IL-13) and IL-4 signaling and is constitutively activated in malignant lymphocytes from Sezary syndrome (SS) and mycosis fungoides (MF), the most common subtypes of cutaneous T-cell lymphomas. By combining genome-wide expression profiling with pharmacological STAT6 inhibition, we have identified the genes regulated by STAT6 in MF/SS tumors. We found that STAT6 regulates several common pathways in MF/SS malignant lymphocytes that are associated with control of cell-cycle progression and genomic stability as well as production of Th2 cytokines. Using ex vivo skin explants from cutaneous MF tumors as well as Sezary cells derived from the blood of SS patients, we demonstrated that inhibition of STAT6 activation downregulates cytokine production and induces cell-cycle arrest in MF/SS malignant lymphocytes, inhibiting their proliferation but not their survival. Furthermore, we show that STAT6 promotes the protumoral M2-like phenotype of tumor-associated macrophages in the tumor microenvironment of advanced stage MF by upregulating the expression of genes associated with immunosuppression, chemotaxis, and tumor matrix remodeling. Thus, we show STAT6 to be a major factor in the pathogenesis and progression of MF/SS, promoting proliferation and invasion of the malignant lymphocytes while inducing a progressive depression of the antitumor immune response. Together, our results provide new insights into disease pathogenesis and offer new prospective targets for therapeutic intervention.