A Cancer Vaccine Induces Expansion of NY-ESO-1-Specific Regulatory T Cells in Patients with Advanced Melanoma Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Cancer vaccines are designed to expand tumor antigen-specific T cells with effector function. However, they may also inadvertently expand regulatory T cells (Treg), which could seriously hamper clinical efficacy. To address this possibility, we developed a novel assay to detect antigen-specific Treg based on down-regulation of surface CD3 following TCR engagement, and used this approach to screen for Treg specific to the NY-ESO-1 tumor antigen in melanoma patients treated with the NY-ESO-1/ISCOMATRIX™ cancer vaccine. All patients tested had Treg (CD25(bright) FoxP3(+) CD127(neg)) specific for at least one NY-ESO-1 epitope in the blood. Strikingly, comparison with pre-treatment samples revealed that many of these responses were induced or boosted by vaccination. The most frequently detected response was toward the HLA-DP4-restricted NY-ESO-1(157-170) epitope, which is also recognized by effector T cells. Notably, functional Treg specific for an HLA-DR-restricted epitope within the NY-ESO-1(115-132) peptide were also identified at high frequency in tumor tissue, suggesting that NY-ESO-1-specific Treg may suppress local anti-tumor immune responses. Together, our data provide compelling evidence for the ability of a cancer vaccine to expand tumor antigen-specific Treg in the setting of advanced cancer, a finding which should be given serious consideration in the design of future cancer vaccine clinical trials.

publication date

  • October 26, 2012