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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Aug 1;10(15):5004-13.

Immune responses to a class II helper peptide epitope in patients with stage III/IV resected melanoma.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Keck/University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA.


The importance of CD8(+) cytolytic T cells for protection from viral infection and in the generation of immune responses against tumors has been well established. In contrast, the role of CD4(+) T-helper cells in human infection and in cancer immunity has yet to be clearly defined. In this pilot study, we show that immunization of three resected, high-risk metastatic melanoma patients with a T-helper epitope derived from the melanoma differentiation antigen, melanoma antigen recognized by T cells-1, results in CD4(+) T-cell immune responses. Immune reactivity to that epitope was detected by DR4-peptide tetramer staining, and enzyme-linked immunospot assay of fresh and restimulated CD4(+) T cells from patients over the course of the 12-month vaccine regimen. The postvaccine CD4(+) T cells exhibited a mixed T-helper 1/T-helper 2 phenotype, proliferated in response to the antigen and promiscuously recognized the peptide epitope bound to different human leukocyte antigen-DRbeta alleles. For 1 DRbeta1*0401(+) patient, antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells recognized human leukocyte antigen-matched antigen-expressing tumor cells, secreted granzyme B, and also exhibited cytolysis that was MHC class II-restricted. These data establish the immunogenicity of a class II epitope derived from a melanoma-associated antigen and support the inclusion of class II peptides in future melanoma vaccine therapies.

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