Poster Board III-1031
We previously demonstrated the immunogenicity of a combined vaccine approach employing two leukemia-associated antigenic peptides, PR1 and WT1 (Rezvani Blood 2008). Eight patients with myeloid malignancies received one subcutaneous 0.3 mg and 0.5 mg dose each of PR1 and WT1 vaccines in Montanide adjuvant, with 100 μg of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). CD8+ T-cell responses against PR1 or WT1 were detected in all patients as early as 1 week post-vaccination. However, responses were only sustained for 3-4 weeks. The emergence of PR1 or WT1-specific CD8+ T-cells was associated with a significant but transient reduction in minimal residual disease (MRD) as assessed by WT1 expression, suggesting a vaccine-induced anti-leukemia response. Conversely, loss of response was associated with reappearance of WT1 transcripts. We hypothesized that maintenance of sustained or at least repetitive responses may require frequent boost injections. We therefore initiated a phase 2 study of repeated vaccination with PR1 and WT1 peptides in patients with myeloid malignancies. Five patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and 2 patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) were recruited to receive 6 injections at 2 week intervals of PR1 and WT1 in Montanide adjuvant, with GM-CSF as previously described. Six of 7 patients completed 6 courses of vaccination and follow-up as per protocol, to monitor toxicity and immunological responses. Responses to PR1 or WT1 vaccine were detected in all patients after only 1 dose of vaccine. However, additional boosting did not further increase the frequency of PR1 or WT1-specific CD8+ T-cell response. In 4/6 patients the vaccine-induced T-cell response was lost after the fourth dose and in all patients after the sixth dose of vaccine. To determine the functional avidity of the vaccine-induced CD8+ T-cell response, the response of CD8+ T-cells to stimulation with 2 concentrations of PR1 and WT1 peptides (0.1 and 10 μM) was measured by IC-IFN-γ staining. Vaccination led to preferential expansion of low avidity PR1 and WT1 specific CD8+ T-cell responses. Three patients (patients 4, 6 and 7) returned 3 months following the 6th dose of PR1 and WT1 peptide injections to receive a booster vaccine. Prior to vaccination we could not detect the presence of PR1 and WT1 specific CD8+ T-cells by direct ex-vivo tetramer and IC-IFN-γ assay or with 1-week cultured IFN-γ ELISPOT assay, suggesting that vaccination with PR1 and WT1 peptides in Montanide adjuvant does not induce memory CD8+ T-cell responses. This observation is in keeping with recent work in a murine model where the injection of minimal MHC class I binding peptides derived from self-antigens mixed with IFA adjuvant resulted in a transient effector CD8+ T cell response with subsequent deletion of these T cells and failure to induce CD8+ T cell memory (Bijker J Immunol 2007). This observation can be partly explained by the slow release of vaccine peptides from the IFA depot without systemic danger signals, leading to presentation of antigen in non-inflammatory lymph nodes by non-professional antigen presenting cells (APCs). An alternative explanation for the transient vaccine-induced immune response may be the lack of CD4+ T cell help. In summary these data support the immunogenicity of PR1 and WT1 peptide vaccines. However new approaches will be needed to induce long-term memory responses against leukemia antigens. To avoid tolerance induction we plan to eliminate Montanide adjuvant and use GM-CSF alone. Supported by observations that the in vivo survival of CD8+ T-effector cells against viral antigens are improved by CD4+ helper cells, we are currently attempting to induce long-lasting CD8+ T-cell responses to antigen by inducing CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell responses against class I and II epitopes of WT1 and PR1.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.