Activation of TLR3 stimulates cancer cell apoptosis and triggers secretion of inflammatory cytokines. PolyI:C, a TLR3 agonist, activates immune cells and regresses metastatic lung cancer in vivo. Although polyI:C reportedly kills lung carcinomas, the mechanism remains elusive. Here, we demonstrated that polyI:C suppressed the proliferation and survival of metastatic (NCI-H358 and NCI-H292) and non-metastatic (A549) lung cancer cells. Notably, A549, NCI-H292 and NCI-H358 which are inducible by polyI:C, expressed low-to-medium level of TLR3 protein, and were susceptible to polyI:C treatment. By contrast, NCI-H1299, which endogenously expresses high level of TLR3 protein, was insensitive to polyI:C. We showed that polyI:C stimulated pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with survival and metastasis in a cell type-specific manner. While A549 and NCI-H292 released high levels of IL6, IL8 and GRO, the NCI-H358 cells endogenously secretes abundant levels of these cytokines, and was not further induced by polyI:C. Thus, NCI-H358 was resistant to the inhibition of cytokine-dependent metastasis. NCI-H1299, which was unresponsive to polyI:C, did not produce any of the pro-inflammatory cytokines. Treatment of A549 with a combination of polyI:C and anti-IL6 antibody significantly decreased IL6 production, and enhanced polyI:C-mediated killing and suppression of oncogenicity and metastasis. While polyI:C stimulated the phosphorylation of STAT3 and JAK2, blockade of these proteins enhanced polyI:C-mediated suppression of survival and metastasis. Taken together, polyI:C alone provoked apoptosis of lung cancer cells that express low-to-medium levels of functional TLR3 protein. The combinatorial treatment with polyI:C and anti-IL6 enhanced polyI:C-mediated anticancer activities through IL6/JAK2/STAT3 signalling, and apoptosis via TLR3-mediated caspase 3/8 pathway.
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