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Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2012 Feb;27(1):12-22. doi: 10.1089/cbr.2012.1202. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

Abscopal regression of antigen disparate tumors by antigen cascade after systemic tumor vaccination in combination with local tumor radiation.

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Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Radiation is a primary modality in cancer treatment. Radiation can also reduce tumor growth outside the treatment field, often referred to as the abscopal effect. The mechanisms and therapeutic potential of the abscopal effect have not been fully elucidated. We evaluated the role of vaccination directed against a tumor-associated antigen (TAA) in the induction and amplification of radiation induced abscopal effects. Active-specific immunotherapy with a TAA-specific vaccine regimen was used to induce and potentiate T-cell responses against carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) in combination with local irradiation of subcutaneous tumors. We examined the potential synergy of a poxvirus-based CEA vaccine regimen in CEA-transgenic (Tg) mice in combination with either external beam radiation or brachytherapy of local tumors. The induction of CD8(+) T cells specific for multiple TAAs not encoded by the vaccine was observed after the combination therapy. In two tumor models, the antigen cascade responses induced by vaccine and local irradiation mediated the regression of antigen negative metastases at distal subcutaneous or pulmonary sites. Clinically, local control of the primary tumor is necessary and can sometimes prevent metastases; however, irradiation generally fails to control preexisting metastases. These studies suggest that by coupling tumor irradiation with immunotherapy, the abscopal effect can transcend from anecdotal observation to a defined mechanism that can be exploited for the treatment of systemic disease.

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