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Oncotarget. 2017 May 16;8(20):32536-32549. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.15812.

Immunotherapeutic target expression on breast tumors can be amplified by hormone receptor antagonism: a novel strategy for enhancing efficacy of targeted immunotherapy.

Jaini R1,2,3, Loya MG1, Eng C1,4,2,5,3.

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Genomic Medicine Institute, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.
Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Immunotherapy has historically been successful in highly antigenic tumors but has shown limited therapeutic efficacy in non-antigenic tumors such as breast cancers. Our previous studies in autoimmunity have demonstrated that increased antigen load within a tissue enhances immune reactivity against it. We therefore hypothesized that enhancing expression of target proteins on breast tumors can increase efficacy of targeted immunotherapy. We hypothesized that antagonism of the estrogen receptor (ER) can increase expression of targets that are hormonally regulated and facilitate enhanced tumor recognition by targeted immunotherapy. We used a lactation protein α-Lactalbumin, a known immunotherapeutic target on breast tumors, as our model target antigen. Enhancement of target protein expression in human and murine breast tumors was tested in vitro and in vivo by ER antagonism using clinically established ER modulators, Tamoxifen and Fulvestrant. We show that antagonism of the ER can induce a 2-3 fold increase in expression of target proteins on tumors leaving the normal breast tissue unaffected. Tumor progression studies in 4T1 tumor-bearing mice show that efficacy of adoptively transferred cell based targeted immunotherapy was enhanced by target antigen amplification resulting in significantly higher tumor inhibition. However, in spite of increased target expression, anti-tumor efficacy of direct immunization was not enhanced probably due to other limiting factors involved in the immune priming process. Our study provides a novel combinatorial clinical strategy for enhancing efficacy of immunotherapy not only on breast tumors but potentially also for other hormonally driven tumors such as those of the prostate, testis and ovary.


antigen amplification; cell-mediated immunotherapy; estrogen receptor antagonist; tamoxifen; vaccine

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