BACKGROUND: DC-based tumor vaccines have had limited clinical success thus far. SOCS1, a key inhibitor of inflammatory cytokine signaling, is an immune checkpoint regulator that limits DC immunopotency.
METHODS: We generated a genetically modified DC (gmDC) vaccine to perform immunotherapy. The adenovirus (Ad-siSSF) delivers two tumor-associated antigens (TAAs), survivin and MUC1; secretory bacterial flagellin for DC maturation; and an RNA interference moiety to suppress SOCS1. A 2-stage phase I trial was performed for patients with relapsed acute leukemia after allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: in stage 1, we compared the safety and efficacy between gmDC treatment (23 patients) and standard donor lymphocyte infusion (25 patients); in stage 2, we tested the efficacy of the gmDC vaccine for 12 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients with early molecular relapse.
RESULTS: gmDCs elicited potent TAA-specific CTL responses in vitro, and the immunostimulatory activity of gmDC vaccination was demonstrated in rhesus monkeys. A stage 1 study established that this combinatory gmDC vaccine is safe in acute leukemia patients and yielded improved survival rate. In stage 2, we observed a complete remission rate of 83% in 12 relapsed AML patients. Overall, no grade 3 or grade 4 graft-versus-host disease incidence was detected in any of the 35 patients enrolled.
CONCLUSIONS: This study, with combinatory modifications in DCs, demonstrates the safety and efficacy of SOCS1-silenced DCs in treating relapsed acute leukemia.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01956630.
FUNDING: National Institute of Health (R01CA90427); the Key New Drug Development and Manufacturing Program of the „Twelfth Five-Year Plan“ of China (2011ZX09102-001-29); and Clinical Application Research of Beijing (Z131107002213148).