Background: Effective vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) represents an opportunity to control cervical cancer. Peptide-based vaccines targeting HPV E6 and/or E7 antigens while safe, will most likely require additional strategies to enhance the vaccine potency.
Methods: We tested the HPV-16 E7 peptide-based vaccine in combination with a strategy to enhance CD4+ T help using a Pan HLA-DR epitope (PADRE) peptide and a strategy to enhance dendritic cell activation using the toll-like receptor 3 ligand, poly(I:C).
Results: We observed that mice vaccinated with E7 peptide-based vaccine in combination with PADRE peptide and poly(I:C) generated better E7-specific CD8+ T cell immune responses as well as significantly improved therapeutic anti-tumor effects against TC-1 tumors compared to E7 peptide-based vaccine with either PADRE peptide or poly(I:C) alone. Furthermore, we found that intratumoral vaccination with the E7 peptide in conjunction with PADRE peptide and poly(I:C) generates a significantly higher frequency of E7-specific CD8+ T cells as well as better survival compared to subcutaneous vaccination with the same regimen in treated mice.
Conclusions: The combination of PADRE peptide and poly(I:C) with antigenic peptide is capable of generating potent antigen-specific CD8+ T cell immune responses and antitumor effects in vaccinated mice. Our study has significant clinical implications for peptide-based vaccination.