CD4(+) T cells have been shown to be crucial for the induction and maintenance of cytotoxic T cell responses and to be also capable of mediating direct tumor rejection. Therefore, the anticancer therapeutic efficacy of peptide-based vaccines may be improved by addition of HLA class II epitopes to stimulate T helper cells. Survivin is an apoptosis inhibiting protein frequently overexpressed in tumors. Here we describe the first immunological evaluation of a survivin-derived CD4(+) T cell epitope in a multipeptide immunotherapy trial for prostate carcinoma patients. The survivin peptide is promiscuously presented by several human HLA-DRB1 molecules and, most importantly, is naturally processed by dendritic cells. In vaccinated patients, it was able to induce frequent, robust and multifunctional CD4(+) T cell responses, as monitored by IFN-γ ELISPOT and intracellular cytokine staining. Thus, this HLA-DR restricted epitope is broadly immunogenic and should be valuable for stimulating T helper cells in patients suffering from a wide range of tumors.
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