PURPOSE: This study was aimed at evaluating the feasibility, safety, immunologic and clinical responses in patients with follicular lymphoma treated with monocyte-derived dendritic cells generated in the presence of IFNα and GM-CSF (IFN-DC) in combination with low doses of rituximab.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Firstly, we analyzed in vitro and in vivo the immunologic properties of IFN-DC against follicular lymphoma. Thus, we performed a phase I trial in 8 patients with refractory and relapsed follicular lymphoma based on sequential intranodal injections of low-dose of rituximab and unloaded IFN-DC and report the safety, clinical, and immunologic results of the enrolled patients.
RESULTS: Preclinical studies indicated that IFN-DC can synergize with rituximab leading to increased cytotoxicity and T-cell tumor infiltration. The clinical evaluation showed that the combined treatment was totally safe. The overall response rate was 50%, PET-negative complete response rate 37%, and remission is still ongoing in 2/4 of responding patients (median follow-up 26 months, range 11-47). Notably, following the combined therapy all patients showed induction/enhancement of T-cell responses by CD107 degranulation or IFNγ ELISPOT assay against patient-specific tumor IGHV sequences.
CONCLUSIONS: These results represent the proof-of-principle on the effectiveness of unloaded IFN-DC in inducing durable clinical responses and promoting induction of tumor-specific peripheral T cells, thus suggesting the occurrence of an effective endogenous antitumor vaccination. The overall findings indicate that some unique properties of IFN-DC can be successfully exploited to induce/enhance antitumor responses, thus representing a valuable antitumor strategy for novel and more effective combination therapies in patients with cancer.