bioRxiv, 2024,

Engineering the glioblastoma microenvironment using TLR7/8 agonist-complexed graphene oxide nanosheets

Maria Stylianou, Thomas Kisby*, Despoina Despotopoulou, Helen Parker, Alexandra Thawley, Kiana Arashvand, Neus Lozano, Andrew MacDonald, Kostas Kostarelos*

The glioblastoma (GBM) microenvironment is characterised as immunologically ‘cold’, with immunosuppressive components that compromise the efficacy of current immunotherapies. Tumour associated macrophages and microglia (TAMMs) that are activated towards an immunosuppressive, pro-tumoral state have been identified as major contributing factors to the ‘coldness’ of GBM, while further promoting tumour progression and resistance to therapy. Based on this understanding, strategies such as macrophage reprogramming have been explored but have so far been limited by poor delivery and retention of reprogramming agents to the target cell populations within the GBM microenvironment. Consequently, clinical efficacy of such approaches has thus far shown limited success. Two-dimensional, graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets have been demonstrated to spread readily throughout the entire tumour microenvironment following a single intratumoral injection, interacting primarily with TAMMs. The current study aimed to investigate whether the immunosuppressive character of TAMMs in GBM can be ameliorated using GO sheets as a vector system to selectively deliver a TLR7/8 agonist (Resiquimod, R848), into these populations. GO enhanced the activity of R848 and induced the expression of M1-like markers on bone marrow derived macrophages in vitro. Using multi-parameter flow cytometry and histological analysis in a syngeneic, orthotopic mouse model of GBM, we observed that a single intratumoral injection of GO:R848 complex significantly elevated the proportion of macrophages and microglia expressing MHCII, TNFα and CD86 (associated with a pro-inflammatory, anti-tumoral state), while downregulating their expression of the M2 markers ARG1 and YM1 (associated with an anti-inflammatory, pro-tumoral state). This local complex administration inhibited tumour progression and significantly reduced tumour burden. These data illustrate that immunomodulatory GO nanosheets can effectively alter the immune landscape of GBM and modulate the wider GBM microenvironment.