BACKGROUND: Synovial sarcoma is a high-grade malignant tumor of soft tissue, characterized by the specific chromosomal translocation t(X;18), and its resultant SYT-SSX fusion gene. Despite intensive multimodality therapy, the majority of metastatic or relapsed diseases still remain incurable, thus suggesting a need for new therapeutic options. We previously demonstrated the antigenicity of SYT-SSX gene-derived peptides by in vitro analyses. The present study was designed to evaluate in vivo immunological property of a SYT-SSX junction peptide in selected patients with synovial sarcoma. METHODS: A 9-mer peptide (SYT-SSX B: GYDQIMPKK) spanning the SYT-SSX fusion region was synthesized. Eligible patients were those (i) who have histologically and genetically confirmed, unresectable synovial sarcoma (SYT-SSX1 or SYT-SSX2 positive), (ii) HLA-A*2402 positive, (iii) between 20 and 70 years old, (iv) ECOG performance status between 0 and 3, and (v) who gave informed consent. Vaccinations with SYT-SSX B peptide (0.1 mg or 1.0 mg) were given subcutaneously six times at 14-day intervals. These patients were evaluated for DTH skin test, adverse events, tumor size, tetramer staining, and peptide-specific CTL induction. RESULTS: A total of 16 vaccinations were carried out in six patients. The results were (i) no serious adverse effects or DTH reactions, (ii) suppression of tumor progression in one patient, (iii) increases in the frequency of peptide-specific CTLs in three patients and a decrease in one patient, and (iv) successful induction of peptide-specific CTLs from four patients. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate the safety of the SYT-SSX junction peptide in the use of vaccination and also give support to the property of the peptide to evoke in vivo immunological responses. Modification of both the peptide itself and the related protocol is required to further improve the therapeutic efficacy.