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Cancer Res. 2006 Nov 1;66(21):10247-52.

Neurospheres enriched in cancer stem-like cells are highly effective in eliciting a dendritic cell-mediated immune response against malignant gliomas.

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Units of Experimental Neuro-Oncology, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Besta, Milan, Italy.


Cancer stem-like cells (CSC) could be a novel target for cancer therapy, including dendritic cell (DC) immunotherapy. To address this, we developed experiments aimed at DC targeting of neurospheres (NS) from GL261 glioma cells because neurospheres can be enriched in CSC. We obtained murine neurospheres by growing GL261 cells in epidermal growth factor/basic fibroblast growth factor without serum. GL261-NS recapitulated important features of glioblastoma CSC and expressed higher levels of radial glia stem cell markers than GL261 cells growing under standard conditions (GL261 adherent cells, GL261-AC), as assessed by DNA microarray and real-time PCR. GL261-NS brain gliomas were highly infiltrating and more rapidly lethal than GL261-AC, as evidenced by survival analysis (P < 0.0001), magnetic resonance imaging and histology. DC from the bone marrow of syngeneic mice were then used for immunotherapy of GL261-NS and GL261-AC tumors. Strikingly, DC loaded with GL261-NS (DC-NS) cured 80% and 60% of GL261-AC and GL261-NS tumors, respectively (P < 0.0001), whereas DC-AC cured only 50% of GL261-AC tumors (P = 0.0022) and none of the GL261-NS tumors. GL261-NS expressed higher levels of MHC and costimulatory molecules (CD80 and CD86) than GL261-AC; the JAM assay indicated that DC-NS splenocytes had higher lytic activity than DC-AC splenocytes on both GL261-NS and GL261-AC, and immunohistochemistry showed that DC-NS vaccination was associated with robust tumor infiltration by CD8+ and CD4+ T lymphocytes. These findings suggest that DC targeting of CSC provides a higher level of protection against GL261 gliomas, a finding with potential implications for the design of clinical trials based on DC vaccination.

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