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Cancer Res. 2012 Dec 1;72(23):6102-10. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-2479. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

Skin-test infiltrating lymphocytes early predict clinical outcome of dendritic cell-based vaccination in metastatic melanoma.

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Department of Tumor Immunology, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The identification of responding patients early during treatment would improve the capability to develop effective new immunotherapies more rapidly. Here, we describe a bioassay that may link early T-cell-mediated immune responses to later clinical benefits. This bioassay rests upon the tenet of immunotherapy that tumor-specific effector T cells capable of invading peripheral tissue can recognize tumor antigens and exert cytotoxic functions there. To show its utility, we conducted a retrospective study of a large cohort of metastatic melanoma patients (n = 91) enrolled in dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccination protocols to examine a hypothesized correlation of posttreatment skin-infiltrating lymphocytes (SKIL) with overall survival (OS). Stringent immunologic criteria were defined to identify long-term survivors. The presence of tumor-associated antigen (TAA)-specific CD8(+) T cell populations within SKILs (criterion I) was highly predictive for long-term survival. Further restriction by selecting for the presence of TAA-specific CD8(+) T cells specifically recognizing tumor peptide (criterion II) was also associated with improved OS. Recognition of naturally processed antigen (criterion III) maximized the accuracy of the test, with a median OS of 24.1 versus 9.9 months (P = 0.001). Our results show that detailed characterization of SKILs can permit an accurate selection of metastatic melanoma patients who benefit most from DC-based vaccination. This simple and robust bioassay integrates multiple aspects of cellular functions that mediate effective immune responses, thereby offering an effective tool to rapidly identify patients who are responding to immunotherapy at an early stage of treatment.

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