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Cancer Res. 2001 May 1;61(9):3689-97.

Cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and paclitaxel enhance the antitumor immune response of granulocyte/macrophage-colony stimulating factor-secreting whole-cell vaccines in HER-2/neu tolerized mice.

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The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Oncology, Graduate Program in Immunology, Baltimore, Maryland 21231, USA.


Tumor-specific immune tolerance limits the effectiveness of cancer vaccines. In addition, tumor vaccines alone have a limited potential for the treatment of measurable tumor burdens. This highlights the importance of identifying more potent cancer vaccine strategies for clinical testing. We tested immune-modulating doses of chemotherapy in combination with a granulocyte/macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-secreting, HER-2/neu (neu)-expressing whole-cell vaccine as a means to treat existing mammary tumors in antigen-specific tolerized neu transgenic mice. Earlier studies have shown that neu transgenic mice exhibit immune tolerance to the neu-expressing tumors similar to what is observed in patients with cancer. We found that cyclophosphamide, paclitaxel, and doxorubicin, when given in a defined sequence with a GM-CSF-secreting, neu-expressing whole-cell vaccine, enhanced the vaccine's potential to delay tumor growth in neu transgenic mice. In addition, we showed that these drugs mediate their effects by enhancing the efficacy of the vaccine rather than via a direct cytolytic effect on cancer cells. Furthermore, paclitaxel and cyclophosphamide appear to amplify the T helper 1 neu-specific T-cell response. These findings suggest that the combined treatment with immune-modulating doses of chemotherapy and the GM-CSF-secreting neu vaccine can overcome immune tolerance and induce an antigen-specific antitumor immune response. These data provide the immunological rationale for testing immune-modulating doses of chemotherapy in combination with tumor vaccines in patients with cancer.

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