Background: Elderly individuals react less efficiently to vaccines than do adults, mainly because of T-cell unresponsiveness. In this study, we analysed whether tumour-associated antigen (TAA)-specific CD8 T-cell responses could be induced by vaccination in old mice with metastatic breast cancer.
Methods: The effect of pcDNA-3.1- and Listeria-based vaccines, expressing TAA Mage-b, on Mage-b-specific immune responses was tested in spleens and draining lymph nodes (LNs) of mild (4TO7cg) and aggressive (4T1) syngeneic metastatic mouse breast tumour models at young (3 months) and old (20 months) age.
Results: Interferon gamma and interleukin-2 levels increased significantly in draining LNs and spleens of Mage-b-vaccinated mice compared with those in control groups at young but not old age in both mouse tumour models. A significant increase was observed in the number of IFNgamma-producing Mage-b-specific CD8 T cells after Mage-b vaccination in the 4T1 model at young but not old age. This correlated with a reduced protective effect of Mage-b vaccination against metastatic breast cancer at old compared with young age.
Conclusions: The absence of CD8 T-cell responses after Mage-b vaccination and the accompanying reduced protection against metastatic breast cancer in old compared with young mice point towards the need for tailoring cancer vaccination to older age.