Complement downregulation promotes an inflammatory signature that renders colorectal cancer susceptible to immunotherapy

Carsten Krieg, Lukas M Weber, Bruno Fosso, Marinella Marzano, Gary Hardiman, Monica M Olcina, Enric Domingo, Sahar El Aidy, Khalil Mallah, Mark D Robinson, Silvia Guglietta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Background and aims: The role of inflammatory immune responses in colorectal cancer (CRC) development and response to therapy is a matter of intense debate. While inflammation is a known driver of CRC, inflammatory immune infiltrates are a positive prognostic factor in CRC and predispose to response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy. Unfortunately, over 85% of CRC cases are primarily unresponsive to ICB due to the absence of an immune infiltrate, and even the cases that show an initial immune infiltration can become refractory to ICB. The identification of therapy supportive immune responses in the field has been partially hindered by the sparsity of suitable mouse models to recapitulate the human disease. In this study, we aimed to understand how the dysregulation of the complement anaphylatoxin C3a receptor (C3aR), observed in subsets of patients with CRC, affects the immune responses, the development of CRC, and response to ICB therapy.

Methods: We use a comprehensive approach encompassing analysis of publicly available human CRC datasets, inflammation-driven and newly generated spontaneous mouse models of CRC, and multiplatform high-dimensional analysis of immune responses using microbiota sequencing, RNA sequencing, and mass cytometry.

Results: We found that patients’ regulation of the complement C3aR is associated with epigenetic modifications. Specifically, downregulation of C3ar1 in human CRC promotes a tumor microenvironment characterized by the accumulation of innate and adaptive immune cells that support antitumor immunity. In addition, in vivo studies in our newly generated mouse model revealed that the lack of C3a in the colon activates a microbiota-mediated proinflammatory program which promotes the development of tumors with an immune signature that renders them responsive to the ICB therapy.

Conclusions: Our findings reveal that C3aR may act as a previously unrecognized checkpoint to enhance antitumor immunity in CRC. C3aR can thus be exploited to overcome ICB resistance in a larger group of patients with CRC.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere004717
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2022


  • Basic tumor immunology
  • 1506
  • 2434
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunotherapy
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms


Dive into the research topics of 'Complement downregulation promotes an inflammatory signature that renders colorectal cancer susceptible to immunotherapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this