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Clin Cancer Res. 2014 May 1;20(9):2433-44. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2617. Epub 2014 Feb 28.

Phase I dendritic cell p53 peptide vaccine for head and neck cancer.

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Authors' Affiliations: Cancer Immunology Program; Biostatistics Facility, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; Departments of Pathology and Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology, University of Texas-San Antonio Cancer Center, San Antonio, Texas; and Department of Otolaryngology, University of Ulm, Germany.



p53 accumulation in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells creates a targetable tumor antigen. Adjuvant dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccination against p53 was tested in a phase I clinical trial.


Monocyte-derived DC from 16 patients were loaded with two modified HLA-class I p53 peptides (Arm 1), additional Th tetanus toxoid peptide (Arm 2), or additional Th wild-type (wt) p53-specific peptide (Arm 3). Vaccine DCs (vDC) were delivered to inguinal lymph nodes at three time points. vDC phenotype, circulating p53-specific T cells, and regulatory T cells (Treg) were serially monitored by flow cytometry and cytokine production by Luminex. vDC properties were compared with those of DC1 generated with an alternative maturation regimen.


No grade II-IV adverse events were observed. Two-year disease-free survival of 88% was favorable. p53-specific T-cell frequencies were increased postvaccination in 11 of 16 patients (69%), with IFN-γ secretion detected in four of 16 patients. Treg frequencies were consistently decreased (P = 0.006) relative to prevaccination values. The phenotype and function of DC1 were improved relative to vDC.


Adjuvant p53-specific vaccination of patients with HNSCC was safe and associated with promising clinical outcome, decreased Treg levels, and modest vaccine-specific immunity. HNSCC patients' DC required stronger maturation stimuli to reverse immune suppression and improve vaccine efficacy.

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