Colorectal cancer is a major cause of mortality worldwide. Chemotherapy and radiation remain standard treatment for locally advanced disease, with current immune-targeting therapies applying to only a small subset of patients. Expression of the immunooncology target indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) is associated with poor colorectal cancer clinical outcomes but is understudied as a potential treatment target. In this study, we examined the interaction between the IDO1 pathway and radiotherapy in colorectal cancer. We used human and mouse colorectal cancer cell lines, organoids, mouse syngeneic colorectal cancer tumor graft models, and colorectal cancer tissues from patients who received radiotherapy. IDO1 activity was blocked using the clinical IDO1 inhibitor epacadostat and by genetic disruption. We found that radiation induced IDO1 overexpression in colorectal cancer through type I and II IFN signaling. IDO1 enzymatic activity directly influenced colorectal cancer radiation sensitivity. IDO1 inhibition sensitized colorectal cancer to radiation-induced cell death, whereas the IDO1 metabolite kynurenine promoted radioprotection. IDO1 inhibition also potentiated Th1 cytokines and myeloid cell-modulating factors in the tumor microenvironment and promoted an abscopal effect on tumors outside the radiation field. Conversely, IDO1 blockade protected the normal small intestinal epithelium from radiation toxicity and accelerated recovery from radiation-induced weight loss, indicating a role in limiting side effects. These data demonstrated that IDO1 inhibition potentiates radiotherapy effectiveness in colorectal cancer. The findings also provide rationale and mechanistic insight for the study of IDO1 inhibitors as adjuvant therapy to radiation in patients with locally advanced sporadic and colitisassociated colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-464
Number of pages14
JournalCancer immunology research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


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