Th17-inducing autologous dendritic cell vaccination promotes antigen-specific cellular and humoral immunity in ovarian cancer patients

PMID: 33057068
Journal: Nature communications (volume: 11, issue: 1, Nat Commun 2020 10;11(1):5173)
Published: 2020-10-14

Block MS, Dietz AB, Gustafson MP, Kalli KR, Erskine CL, Youssef B, Vijay GV, Allred JB, Pavelko KD, Strausbauch MA, Lin Y, Grudem ME, Jatoi A, Klampe CM, Wahner-Hendrickson AE, Weroha SJ, Glaser GE, Kumar A, Langstraat CL, Solseth ML, Deeds MC, Knutson KL, Cannon MJ


In ovarian cancer (OC), IL-17-producing T cells (Th17s) predict improved survival, whereas regulatory T cells predict poorer survival. We previously developed a vaccine whereby patient-derived dendritic cells (DCs) are programmed to induce Th17 responses to the OC antigen folate receptor alpha (FRα). Here we report the results of a single-arm open-label phase I clinical trial designed to determine vaccine safety and tolerability (primary outcomes) and recurrence-free survival (secondary outcome). Immunogenicity is also evaluated. Recruitment is complete with a total of 19 Stage IIIC-IV OC patients in first remission after conventional therapy. DCs are generated using our Th17-inducing protocol and are pulsed with HLA class II epitopes from FRα. Mature antigen-loaded DCs are injected intradermally. All patients have completed study-related interventions. No grade 3 or higher adverse events are seen. Vaccination results in the development of Th1, Th17, and antibody responses to FRα in the majority of patients. Th1 and antibody responses are associated with prolonged recurrence-free survival. Antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxic activity against FRα is also associated with prolonged RFS. Of 18 patients evaluable for efficacy, 39% (7/18) remain recurrence-free at the time of data censoring, with a median follow-up of 49.2 months. Thus, vaccination with Th17-inducing FRα-loaded DCs is safe, induces antigen-specific immunity, and is associated with prolonged remission.