The graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect following allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) is evidence that T lymphocytes can eradicate leukemia. The successful identification of a range of leukemia-associated antigens such as proteinase 3 (PR3) and Wilms tumour-1 (WT1) has stimulated efforts to induce leukemia-specific T-cell responses to these antigens using peptide vaccines. Here we describe the safety and immunogenicity of a combined vaccine of two leukemia-associated antigenic peptides, PR1 and WT1. Eight HLA-A*0201 positive patients with myeloid malignancies (2 myelodysplasia, 5 acute myeloid leukemia and 1 chronic myeloid leukemia) received one subcutaneous dose each of PR1 and WT1 vaccines in Montanide adjuvant, with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). All patients completed 4 weeks follow-up to monitor toxicity and immunological responses. Toxicity was limited to grade 1–2. All remain alive at a median of 252 days (range 105–523). We analyzed the immunological response to vaccination using PR1/HLA-A*0201 and WT1/HLA-A*0201 tetrameric complexes and flow cytometry for intracellular interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) in samples obtained pre- and weekly post-vaccination. A significant CD8+ T-cell response to the vaccine was defined as the emergence of PR1 or WT1-specific CD8+ T-cells when the pre-study analysis was negative or a twofold increase in frequencies when responses were present pre-vaccination. Following vaccination, a significant CD8+ T-cell response to PR1 was seen in 7/8 patients (median 0.34%, range 0.04–0.48%), to WT1 in 5/8 patients (median 0.29%, range 0–0.42%) and to one or both antigens in 8/8 patients. Vaccine-induced CD8+ T-cells were seen as early as 1 week post-vaccination, produced IFN-γ and were preferentially expanded in the effector compartment (CD45RO+/-CD27−). Post-vaccination, there was a strong correlation between the emergence of PR1 or WT1+CD8+ T-cells and a reduction in WT1 mRNA expression, a marker of minimal residual disease, suggesting a vaccine-driven anti-leukemia effect. Loss of response was associated with reappearance of WT1 transcripts (P<0.01). Two patients with detectable CD8+ T-cell responses to PR1 who failed to have a reduction in MRD relapsed 3–6 months following completion of vaccination. This is the first demonstration that a combined PR1 and WT1 vaccine is immunogenic. Based on these results we have initiated a phase 2 study of repeated vaccination with PR1 and WT1 peptides in patients with myeloid malignancies.

Author notes

Disclosure:Off Label Use: The vaccines used in this study, PR1 and WT1, received an IND and the study was approved by the FDA and the NHBI IRB.