Immunological effects of adjuvants in subsets of antigen presenting cells of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy

Angela Mauriello, Carmen Manolio, Beatrice Cavalluzzo, Antonio Avallone, Marco Borrelli, Alessandro Morabito, Emanuele Iovine, Angela Chambery, Rosita Russo, Maria Lina Tornesello, Franco M. Buonaguro, Maria Tagliamonte, Luigi Buonaguro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We have previously shown that HCC patients and healthy subjects are equally responsive to a RNAdjuvant®, a novel TLR-7/8/RIG-I agonist based on noncoding RNA developed by CureVac, by an ex vivo evaluation. However, the immunological effect of adjuvants on immune cells from cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy remains to be demonstrated. Different adjuvants currently used in cancer vaccine clinical trials were evaluated in the present study on immune cells from cancer patients before and after chemotherapy in an ex vivo setting. Methods: PBMCs were obtained from 4 healthy volunteers and 23 patients affected by either colon (OMA) or lung cancer (OT). The effect of CpG, Poly I:C, Imiquimod and RNA-based adjuvant (RNAdjuvant®) was assessed using a multiparametric approach to analyze network dynamics of early immune responses. Evaluation of CD80, CD86 and HLA-DR expression as well as the downstream effect on CD4+ T cell phenotyping was performed by flow cytometry; cytokine and chemokine production was evaluated by Bio-Plex ProTM. Results: Treatment with RNAdjuvant® induced the strongest response in cancer patients in terms of activation of innate and adoptive immunity. Indeed, CD80, CD86 and HLA-DR expression was found upregulated in circulating dendritic cells, which promoted a CD4+ T cell differentiation towards an effector phenotype. RNAdjuvant® was the only one to induce most of the cytokines/chemokines tested with a pronounced Th1 cytokine pattern. According to the different parameters evaluated in the study, no clear cut difference in immune response to adjuvants was observed between healthy subjects and cancer patients. Moreover, in the latter group, the chemotherapy treatment did not consistently correlate to a significant altered response in the different parameters. Conclusions: The present study is the first analysis of immunological effects induced by adjuvants in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, who are enrolled in the currently ongoing cancer vaccine clinical trials. The results show that the RNAdjuvant® is a potent and Th1 driving adjuvant, compared to those tested in the present study. Most importantly, it is demonstrated that chemotherapy does not significantly impair the immune system, implying that cancer patients are likely to respond to a cancer vaccine even after a chemotherapy treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 23 2020


  • Adjuvant
  • Cancer vaccine
  • Colon cancer
  • Immune-response
  • Lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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