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Br J Cancer. 2014 Nov 11;111(10):1945-54. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.486. Epub 2014 Oct 14.

Direct incorporation of the NKT-cell activator α-galactosylceramide into a recombinant Listeria monocytogenes improves breast cancer vaccine efficacy.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.
1] Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA [2] Millennium Institute on Immunology and Immunotherapy, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Avenue Independencia #1027, Santiago 8380453, Chile.



Immune suppression in the tumour microenvironment remains a major limitation to successful immunotherapy of cancer. In the current study, we analysed whether the natural killer T cell-activating glycolipid α-galactosylceramide could overcome immune suppression and improve vaccination against metastatic breast cancer.


Mice with metastatic breast cancer (4T1 model) were therapeutically treated with a Listeria monocytogenes-based vaccine expressing tumour-associated antigen Mage-b followed by α-galactosylceramide as separate agents, or as a complex of α-galactosylceramide stably incorporated into Listeria-Mage-b. Effects on metastases, tumour weight, toxicity and immune responses were determined.


Sequential treatments of mice with established 4T1 breast carcinomas using Listeria-Mage-b followed by α-galactosylceramide as a separate agent was highly effective at reducing metastases, but was accompanied by severe liver toxicity. In contrast, combined therapy using Listeria-Mage-b modified by incorporation of α-galactosylceramide resulted in nearly complete elimination of metastases without toxicity. This was associated with a significant increase in the percentage of natural killer T cells in the spleen, and an increase in natural killer cell activity and in T cell responses to Mage-b.


Our results suggest that direct incorporation of α-galactosylceramide into a live bacterial vaccine vector is a promising non-toxic new approach for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

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