IL-15 augments antitumoral activity of an ErbB2/HER2 cancer vaccine targeted to professional antigen-presenting cells
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- Burkhardt, U.E., Sloots, A., Jakobi, V. et al. Cancer Immunol Immunother (2012) 61: 1473. doi:10.1007/s00262-012-1215-7
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Targeted delivery of tumor-associated antigens to professional antigen-presenting cells (APC) is being explored as a strategy to enhance the antitumoral activity of cancer vaccines. Here, we generated a cell-based system for continuous in vivo production of a CTLA-4-ErbB2 fusion protein as a therapeutic vaccine. The chimeric CTLA-4-ErbB2 molecule contains the extracellular domain of CTLA-4 for specific targeting to costimulatory B7 molecules on the surface of APC, genetically fused to residues 1–222 of human ErbB2 (HER2) as an antigenic determinant. In wild-type BALB/c mice, inoculation of syngeneic epithelial cells continuously secreting the CTLA-4-ErbB2 fusion vaccine in the vicinity of subcutaneously growing ErbB2-expressing renal cell carcinomas resulted in the rejection of established tumors, accompanied by the induction of ErbB2-specific antibodies and cytotoxic T cells. In contrast, treatment with CTLA-4-ErbB2 vaccine-secreting producer cells alone was insufficient to induce tumor rejection in ErbB2-transgenic WAP-Her-2 F1 mice, which are characterized by pronounced immunological tolerance to the human self-antigen. When CTLA-4-ErbB2 producer cells were modified to additionally secrete interleukin (IL)-15, antigen-specific antitumoral activity of the vaccine in WAP-Her-2 F1 mice was restored, documented by an increase in survival, and marked inhibition of the growth of established ErbB2-expressing, but not antigen-negative tumors. Our results demonstrate that continuous in vivo expression of an APC-targeted ErbB2 fusion protein results in antigen-specific immune responses and antitumoral activity in tumor-bearing hosts, which is augmented by the pleiotropic cytokine IL-15. This provides a rationale for further development of this approach for specific cancer immunotherapy.