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J Immunol. 2013 Jul 1;191(1):217-27. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300231. Epub 2013 May 22.

Peptide vaccines and peptidomimetics of EGFR (HER-1) ligand binding domain inhibit cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a validated target for several cancers including lung, colorectal, and certain subtypes of breast cancer. Cetuximab targets ligand binding of EGFR, but major problems like high cost, short t1/2, toxicity, and emergence of resistance are associated with the drug. Immunization with EGFR B cell epitopes will train the immune system to produce specific Abs that can kill cancer cells. Also, therapy with stable, less-expensive, and nontoxic EGFR peptide mimics will block EGFR signaling and inhibit cancer growth. We designed three peptides based on the contact sites between EGF and EGFR. The B cell epitopes were synthesized alone and also linked with the measles virus T cell epitope to produce a chimeric peptide vaccine. The peptide vaccines were immunogenic in both mice and rabbits and Abs raised against the vaccine specifically bound EGFR-expressing cells and recombinant human EGFR protein. The peptide mimics and the anti-peptide Abs were able to inhibit EGFR signaling pathways. Immunization with the peptide vaccine or treatment with the B cell epitopes significantly reduced tumor growth in both transplantable breast and lung cancer models. Immunohistochemical analysis also showed significant reductions in microvascular density and actively dividing cells in the tumor sections after treatment in the FVB/n breast cancer model. The 418-435 B cell epitope was the best candidate both as a vaccine or peptide mimic because it caused significant inhibition in the two mouse models. Our results show that this novel EGFR B cell epitope has great potential to be used as a vaccine or treatment option for EGFR-expressing cancers.

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