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Vaccine. 2009 Mar 4;27(10):1557-65. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.01.011. Epub 2009 Jan 24.

A modified epitope identified for generation and monitoring of PSA-specific T cells in patients on early phases of PSA-based immunotherapeutic protocols.

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Department of Oncology and Pathology, Cancer Center Karolinska R8:01, Immune and Gene Therapy Laboratory, Karolinska Institute, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.


Efficacy of vaccination in cancer patients on immunotherapeutic protocols can be difficult to evaluate. The aim of this study was therefore to identify a single natural or modified epitope in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) with the ability to generate high levels of PSA-specific T cells to facilitate monitoring in patients after vaccination against prostate cancer. To the best of our knowledge, this study describes for the first time the peptide specificity of T cells stimulated by endogenously processed PSA antigen. The peptide specificity of HLA-A*0201-restricted CD8(+) T cells against human and rhesus PSA was investigated both in vivo after DNA vaccination in HLA-A*0201-transgenic mice and in vitro after repetitive stimulation of human T cells with DNA-transfected human dendritic cells (DCs). One of seven native PSA peptides, psa53-61, was able to activate high levels of PSA-specific CD8(+) T cells in HLA-A*0201-transgenic mice after PSA DNA vaccination. Psa53-61 was also the only peptide that induced human T cells to produce IFNgamma after stimulation with PSA transfected DCs, however not in all donors. Therefore, plasmids encoding modified epitopes in predicted HLA-A*0201 sequences were constructed. One of these modified PSA plasmids consistently induced IFNgamma producing CD8(+) T cells to the corresponding modified peptide as well as to the corresponding native peptide, in all murine and human T cell cultures. This study demonstrates a novel concept of introducing a modified epitope within a self-tumor antigen, with the purpose of eliciting a reliable T cell response from the non-tolerized immune repertoire, to facilitate monitoring of vaccine efficacy in cancer patients on immunotherapeutic protocols. The purpose of such a modified epitope is thus not to induce therapeutically relevant T cells but rather to, in case of weak or divergent T cell responses to self antigens/peptides, help answer questions about efficacy of vaccine delivery and about the possibility to induce immune responses in the selected and often immunosuppressed cancer patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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