Characteristics of severe adverse events after peptide vaccination for advanced cancer patients: Analysis of 500 cases

Oncol Rep. 2011 Jan;25(1):57-62.


The purpose of this study was to investigate severe adverse events (SAEs) after therapeutic peptide vaccination for advanced cancer patients. We investigated SAEs following personalized peptide vaccinations in 500 advanced cancer patients, including 174 prostate, 74 colon, 51 pancreatic and 43 gastric cancer patients. The number of vaccination cycles varied widely, from 3 to 112. The severity of adverse events was scored according to the National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events version 3, and events with a grade of >3 were defined as SAEs and were evaluated by the Institutional Safety Evaluation Committee. A total of 215 SAEs in 102 patients were recorded during the vaccine trials. The main causes for these events were cancer progression (152 SAEs in 78 patients), combined cancer treatments other than vaccination (35 in 21 patients), diseases other than cancer (20 in 19 patients), peptide vaccines (6 in 6 patients) and suicide (1 in 1 patient). The 6 vaccine-related SAEs, all grade 3, consisted of skin reactions at each injection site, cellulitis around the injection site, edemas of the head and neck regions, colitis, rectal bleeding and bladder-vaginal fistulae. Both cellular and humoral responses to the vaccinated peptides were highly boosted in all 6 of these patients, indicating the involvement of augmented immune responses in these SAEs. The clinical responses in these 6 patients consisted of 2 partial responses and 4 stable diseases. The majority of SAEs after peptide vaccination for advanced cancer patients were caused by cancer progression. The appearance of vaccine-related SAEs, except inflammatory injection site reactions, was unexpected, and fortunately the incidence was very low. Our results suggest that physicians should be on guard for these rare SAEs associated with augmented immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cancer Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*
  • Vaccines, Subunit / adverse effects


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Subunit