A cancer vaccine induces expansion of NY-ESO-1-specific regulatory T cells in patients with advanced melanoma

Lisa Ebert, Sarah MacRaild, Damien Zanker, Ian Davis, Jonathan Cebon, Weisan Chen

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44 Citations (Scopus)


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/ISCOMATRIXTM cancer vaccine. All patients tested had Treg (CD25bright FoxP3+ CD127neg) 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-1157-170 epitope, which is also recognized by effector T cells. Notably, functional Treg specific for an HLADR- restricted epitope within the NY-ESO-1115-132 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere48424
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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