As an evolutionarily conserved DNA-sensing machinery in innate immunity, the cGAS-STING pathway has been reported to play an important role in immune surveillance and tumor suppression. Recent evidence suggests an intriguing tumor- and metastasis-promoting effect of this signaling pathway, either in a cancer cell-autonomous or a cancer cell-nonautonomous, bystander cell-mediated manner. Here, we show a new face of cGAS-STING signaling whose activation in a cancer-cell-autonomous response manner confers drug resistance. Targeted or conventional chemotherapy drug treatment induced cancer cell cytosolic DNA accumulation and triggered subsequent cGAS-STING signaling activation in cancer cell lines and the human cell-derived xenograft tumors. This activation promoted an acquisition and maintenance of drug resistance which was prevented and overcome in vitro and in vivo by blockade of STING signaling. This finding highlights a new face of cGAS-STING signaling and an ability of cancer cells to hijack the evolutionarily conserved inflammatory signaling to counteract drug stress and warrants a caution in combining STING agonist with targeted or conventional chemotherapy drug treatment, a strategy prevailing in current clinical trials.
Statement of significance
cGAS-STING signaling has long been recognized as playing a key role in triggering antitumor immunity. We reveal a new face of cGAS-STING signaling and an ability of cancer cells autonomously to hijack the evolutionarily conserved inflammatory signaling to counteract drug stress.