• Open Access

Tumour inflammasome-derived IL-1β recruits neutrophils and improves local recurrence-free survival in EBV-induced nasopharyngeal carcinoma



Inflammasomes sense infection and cellular damage and are critical for triggering inflammation through IL-1β production. In carcinogenesis, inflammasomes may have contradictory roles through facilitating antitumour immunity and inducing oncogenic factors. Their function in cancer remains poorly characterized. Here we show that the NLRP3, AIM2 and RIG-I inflammasomes are overexpressed in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), and expression levels correlate with patient survival. In tumour cells, AIM2 and RIG-I are required for IL-1β induction by EBV genomic DNA and EBV-encoded small RNAs, respectively, while NLRP3 responds to extracellular ATP and reactive oxygen species. Irradiation and chemotherapy can further activate AIM2 and NLRP3, respectively. In mice, tumour-derived IL-1β inhibits tumour growth and enhances survival through host responses. Mechanistically, IL-1β-mediated anti-tumour effects depend on infiltrated immunostimulatory neutrophils. We show further that presence of tumour-associated neutrophils is significantly associated with better survival in NPC patients. Thus, tumour inflammasomes play a key role in tumour control by recruiting neutrophils, and their expression levels are favourable prognostic markers and promising therapeutic targets in patients.