Maintenance of long remission in adult T-cell leukemia by Tax-targeted vaccine: A hope for disease-preventive therapy

PMID: 30666755
Journal: Cancer science (volume: 110, issue: 3, Cancer Sci. 2019 Mar;110(3):849-857)
Published: 2019-02-19

Kannagi M, Hasegawa A, Nagano Y, Iino T, Okamura J, Suehiro Y


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is an aggressive lymphoproliferative disease caused by human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Multi-agent chemotherapy can reduce ATL cells but frequently allows relapses within a short period of time. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) following chemotherapy is now a standard therapy for ATL in Japan as it can achieve long-term remission in approximately one-third of recipient ATL patients; however, it also has a risk of treatment-related mortality. Allo-HSCT often induces HTLV-1 Tax-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTL) as well as graft-versus-host (GVH) response in ATL patients. This observation led to development of a new therapeutic vaccine to activate Tax-specific CTL, anticipating anti-ATL effects without GVH response. The newly developed Tax-DC vaccine consists of autologous dendritic cells pulsed with Tax peptides corresponding to CTL epitopes that have been identified in post-allo-HSCT ATL patients. In a pilot study of Tax-DC therapy in three ATL patients after various initial therapies, two patients survived for more than 4 years after vaccination without severe adverse effects (UMIN000011423). The Tax-DC vaccine is currently under phase I trial, showing a promising clinical outcome so far. These findings indicate the importance of patients‘ own HTLV-1-specific T-cell responses in maintaining remission and provide a new approach to anti-ATL immunotherapy targeting Tax. Although Tax-targeted vaccination is ineffective against Tax-negative ATL cells, it can be a safe alternative maintenance therapy for Tax-positive ATL and may be further applicable for treatment of indolent ATL or even prophylaxis of ATL development among HTLV-1-carriers.