Cancer vaccines have recently been shown to induce some clinical benefits. The relationship between clinical activity and anti-vaccine T cell responses is somewhat controversial. Indeed, in many trials it has been documented that the induction of vaccine-specific T cells exceeds the clinical responses observed. Here, we evaluate immunological and clinical responses in 23 MAGE-A3+ melanoma patients treated with autologous lymphocytes genetically engineered to express the tumor antigen MAGE-A3 and the viral gene product thymidine kinase of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-TK). HSV-TK was used as safety system in case of adverse events and as tracer antigen to monitor the immune competence of treated patients. The increase of anti-TK and anti-MAGE-A3 T-cells after vaccination was observed in 90 and 27% of patients, respectively. Among 19 patients with measurable disease, we observed a disease control rate of 26.3%, with one objective clinical response, and four durable, stable diseases. Three patients out of five with no evidence of disease (NED) at the time of vaccination remained NED after 73+, 70+ and 50+ months. Notably, we report that only patients experiencing MAGE-A3-specific immune responses showed a clinical benefit. Additionally, we report that responder and non-responder patients activate and expand T cells against the tracer antigen TK in a similar way, suggesting that local rather than systemic immune suppression might be involved in limiting clinically relevant antitumor immune responses.
- active immunotherapy
- antigen-specific immune responses
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research