Dendritic Cell Vaccination in Metastatic Melanoma Turns “Non-T Cell Inflamed” Into “T-Cell Inflamed” Tumors

Jenny Bulgarelli, Marcella Tazzari, Anna Maria Granato, Laura Ridolfi, Serena Maiocchi, Francesco de Rosa, Massimiliano Petrini, Elena Pancisi, Giorgia Gentili, Barbara Vergani, Filippo Piccinini, Antonella Carbonaro, Biagio Eugenio Leone, Giovanni Foschi, Valentina Ancarani, Massimo Framarini, Massimo Guidoboni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccination effectively induces anti-tumor immunity, although in the majority of cases this does not translate into a durable clinical response. However, DC vaccination is characterized by a robust safety profile, making this treatment a potential candidate for effective combination cancer immunotherapy. To explore this possibility, understanding changes occurring in the tumor microenvironment (TME) upon DC vaccination is required. In this line, quantitative and qualitative changes in tumor-infiltrating T lymphocytes (TILs) induced by vaccination with autologous tumor lysate/homogenate loaded DCs were investigated in a series of 16 patients with metastatic melanoma. Immunohistochemistry for CD4, CD8, Foxp3, Granzyme B (GZMB), PDL1, and HLA class I was performed in tumor biopsies collected before and after DC vaccination. The density of each marker was quantified by automated digital pathology analysis on whole slide images. Co-expression of markers defining functional phenotypes, i.e., Foxp3+ regulatory CD4+ T cells (Treg) and GZMB+ cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, was assessed with sequential immunohistochemistry. A significant increase of CD8+ TILs was found in post-vaccine biopsies of patients who were not previously treated with immune-modulating cytokines or Ipilimumab. Interestingly, along with a maintained tumoral HLA class I expression, after DC vaccination we observed a significant increase of PDL1+ tumor cells, which significantly correlated with intratumoral CD8+ T cell density. This observation might explain the lack of a significant concurrent cytotoxic reactivation of CD8+ T cell, as measured by the numbers of GZMB+ T cells. Altogether these findings indicate that DC vaccination exerts an important role in sustaining or de novo inducing a T cell inflamed TME. However, the strength of the intratumoral T cell activation detected in post-DC therapy lesions is lessened by an occurring phenomenon of adaptive immune resistance, yet the concomitant PDL1 up-regulation. Overall, this study sheds light on DC immunotherapy-induced TME changes, lending the rationale for the design of smarter immune-combination therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2353
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 9 2019


  • dendritic cell vaccine
  • immunomonitoring
  • immunotherapy
  • melanoma
  • PDL1
  • T cell landscape
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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