The current studies evaluate granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) as a vaccine adjuvant. An important issue for developing vaccine therapy for human malignancy is identifying adjuvants that can elicit T-cell responses to proteins and peptides derived from “self” tumor antigens. GM-CSF, in vitro, stimulates the growth of antigen-presenting cells such as dendritic cells and macrophages. Initial experiments examined whether GM-CSF injected into the skin of rats could affect the number or character of antigen presenting cells, measured as class II major histocompatability complex expressing cells, in lymph nodes draining the injection site. Intradermal (id) inoculation of GM-CSF every 24 hours for a total of five inoculations resulted in an increase of class II+ fluorescing cells that peaked at the fourth inoculation. Subcutaneous (sq) inoculation resulted in an increase of class II+ fluorescing cells that peaked following the second inoculation, then decreased over time. Using this schema for “conditioning” the inoculation site, GM-CSF was administered id or sq for five injections and a foreign antigen, tetanus toxoid (tt), was given at the beginning or the end of the immunization cycle. Id immunization was more effective than sq at eliciting tt specific immunity. In addition, GM-CSF id, administered as a single dose with antigen, compared favorably with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) and alum in eliciting tt specific antibody and cellular immunity. We have shown that immunity to rat neu (c-erbB-2) protein, an oncogenic self protein, can be generated in rats by immunization with peptides derived from the normal rat neu sequence plus CFA. The current study demonstrates that rat neu peptides inoculated with GM-CSF could elicit a strong delayed type hypersensitivity reaction (DTH) response, whereas peptides alone were non-immunogenic. GM-CSF was as effective as CFA in generating rat neu specific DTH responses after immunization with a neu peptide based vaccine. Soluble GM-CSF is a potent adjuvant for the generation of immune responses to foreign proteins as well as peptides derived from a self tumor antigen.

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