T cells that recognize tumor antigens are crucial for anti-tumor immune responses. Induction of anti-tumor T cells in immunogenic tumors depends on STING, the intracellular innate immune receptor for cyclic guanosine monophosphate-adenosine monophosphate (cGAMP) and related cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs). However, the optimal way to leverage STING activation in non-immunogenic tumors is still unclear. Here, we show that cGAMP delivery by intra-tumoral injection of virus-like particles (cGAMP-VLP) leads to differentiation of tumor-specific T cells, decrease in tumor regulatory T cells (Tregs) and anti-tumoral responses that synergize with PD1 blockade. By contrast, intra-tumoral injection of synthetic CDN leads to tumor necrosis and systemic T cell activation but no differentiation of tumor-specific T cells, and a demise of immune cells in injected tumors. Analyses of cytokine responses and genetic models revealed that cGAMP-VLP preferentially targets STING in dendritic cells at a 1000-fold less dose than synthetic CDN. Sub-cutaneous administration of cGAMP-VLP showed synergy when combined with a tumor Treg-depleting antibody to elicit systemic tumor-specific T cells, leading to complete and lasting tumor eradication. These finding show that cell targeting of STING stimulation shapes the anti-tumor T cell response and reveal a therapeutic strategy with T cell modulators.
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