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Br J Cancer. 1998 Jun;77(11):1907-16.

Vaccination with IL-7 gene-modified autologous melanoma cells can enhance the anti-melanoma lytic activity in peripheral blood of patients with a good clinical performance status: a clinical phase I study.

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Universitätshautklinik, Virchow Klinikum, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany.


Recently, cytokine gene transfer into tumour cells has been shown to mediate tumour regression in animal models via immunomodulation. Consequently, a number of clinical protocols have been developed to treat cancer patients with cytokine gene-modified tumour cells. Here, we report the results of a clinical phase I trial using for the first time autologous, interleukin 7 gene-modified tumour cells for vaccination of ten patients with disseminated malignant melanoma. Melanoma cells were expanded in vitro from surgically removed metastases, transduced by a ballistic gene transfer technique and were then injected after in vitro irradiation s.c. at weekly intervals. Clinically, there was no major toxicity except for mild fever, and no major clinical response towards vaccination was observed. Eight of ten patients completed the initial three s.c. vaccinations and were eligible for immunological evaluation. Post vaccination, peripheral mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were found to contain an increased number of tumour-reactive proliferative as well as cytolytic cells, as determined by a limiting dilution analysis. In three of six patients, the frequencies of anti-melanoma cytolytic precursor cells increased between 2.6- and 28-fold. Two of these patients showed a minor clinical response. Analysis of the autologous tumour cell vaccines regarding IL-7 secretion after gene transfer, HLA class I and class II cell surface expression, secretion of immunosuppressive mediators (TGF-beta1, IL-10) and various melanoma-associated tumour antigens revealed a very diverse expression profile. In conclusion, vaccination using gene-modified autologous melanoma cells induced immunological changes in a group of advanced, terminally ill patients. These changes can be interpreted as an increased anti-tumour immune response. However, immunological modulation was most pronounced in patients in good physical condition. Therefore, patients with minimal tumour load or minimal residual disease might preferentially benefit from tumour cell vaccination in further studies. In order to evaluate the effects of the cytokine gene-modified tumour cell vaccines more precisely, an antigenically better defined vaccine is needed.

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