The ubiquitin-like protein, ISG15, is a novel tumor-associated antigen for cancer immunotherapy

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2012 May;61(5):689-700. doi: 10.1007/s00262-011-1129-9. Epub 2011 Nov 6.


The recent announcement of the first FDA-approved therapeutic vaccine for prostate cancer, Sipuleucel-T, is a watershed moment for the field of tumor immunotherapy. However, while Sipuleucel-T provides a powerful tool to clinicians for the most prevalent form of cancer in men, there remains an unmet need for a similar therapeutic strategy against breast cancer, the most prevalent cancer in women. While current breast cancer vaccines in development target several antigens, the most prevalent is the tumor-associated antigen, HER2. Initial results with HER2 vaccines appear promising in terms of efficacy; however, the lack of HER2 overexpression by a majority of breast tumors and the safety concerns associated with current HER2-targeted immunotherapy suggest that additional therapeutic strategies would be beneficial. Recently, several studies have identified ISG15 as a molecule highly expressed in numerous malignancies. ISG15 is a small ubiquitin-like protein regulated by type-I interferon and classically associated with viral defense. Elevated ISG15 expression in breast cancer is especially well documented and is independent of HER2, progesterone receptor, and estrogen receptor status. Additionally, high ISG15 expression in breast cancer correlates with an unfavorable prognosis and poor responses to traditional treatment strategies such as chemotherapy and radiation. To overcome these challenges, we employ a novel strategy to specifically target tumor-associated ISG15 expression with immunotherapy. We demonstrate that vaccination against ISG15 results in significant CD8-mediated reductions in both primary and metastatic mammary tumor burden. These results validate ISG15 as a tumor-associated antigen for cancer immunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • CD8 Antigens / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / immunology
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / immunology
  • Rats
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology
  • Ubiquitins / genetics
  • Ubiquitins / immunology
  • Ubiquitins / pharmacology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cytokines
  • G1p2 protein, mouse
  • Interferon Type I
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ubiquitins
  • Erbb2 protein, mouse
  • Receptor, ErbB-2