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Int J Cancer. 2013 Jun 1;132(11):2557-66. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27939. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Clinical and immunologic responses in melanoma patients vaccinated with MAGE-A3-genetically modified lymphocytes.

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Division of Molecular Oncology, Unit of Cancer Gene Therapy, Program in Immunology and Bio Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy of Cancer, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy.


Cancer vaccines have recently been shown to induce some clinical benefits. The relationship between clinical activity and anti-vaccine T cell responses is somewhat controversial. Indeed, in many trials it has been documented that the induction of vaccine-specific T cells exceeds the clinical responses observed. Here, we evaluate immunological and clinical responses in 23 MAGE-A3(+) melanoma patients treated with autologous lymphocytes genetically engineered to express the tumor antigen MAGE-A3 and the viral gene product thymidine kinase of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-TK). HSV-TK was used as safety system in case of adverse events and as tracer antigen to monitor the immune competence of treated patients. The increase of anti-TK and anti-MAGE-A3 T-cells after vaccination was observed in 90 and 27% of patients, respectively. Among 19 patients with measurable disease, we observed a disease control rate of 26.3%, with one objective clinical response, and four durable, stable diseases. Three patients out of five with no evidence of disease (NED) at the time of vaccination remained NED after 73+, 70+ and 50+ months. Notably, we report that only patients experiencing MAGE-A3-specific immune responses showed a clinical benefit. Additionally, we report that responder and non-responder patients activate and expand T cells against the tracer antigen TK in a similar way, suggesting that local rather than systemic immune suppression might be involved in limiting clinically relevant antitumor immune responses.

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