The purpose of the current phase II single-arm clinical trial was to evaluate whether pretreatment with low-dose cyclophosphamide improves immunogenicity of a p53-synthetic long peptide (SLP) vaccine in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. Patients with ovarian cancer with elevated serum levels of CA-125 after primary treatment were immunized four times with the p53-SLP vaccine. Each immunization was preceded by administration of 300 mg/m2 intravenous cyclophosphamide as a means to affect regulatory T cells (Tregs). Vaccine-induced p53-specific interferon-gamma (IFN-γ)-producing T cells evaluated by IFN-γ ELISPOT were observed in 90% (9/10) and 87.5% (7/8) of evaluable patients after two and four immunizations, respectively. Proliferative p53-specific T cells, observed in 80.0% (8/10) and 62.5% (5/8) of patients, produced both T-helper 1 and T-helper-2 cytokines. Cyclophosphamide induced neither a quantitative reduction of Tregs determined by CD4+ FoxP3+ T cell levels nor a demonstrable qualitative difference in Treg function tested in vitro. Nonetheless, the number of vaccine-induced p53-specific IFN-γ-producing T cells was higher in our study compared to a study in which a similar patient group was treated with p53-SLP monotherapy (p≤0.012). Furthermore, the strong reduction in the number of circulating p53-specific T cells observed previously after four immunizations was currently absent. Stable disease was observed in 20.0% (2/10) of patients, and the remainder of patients (80.0%) showed clinical, biochemical and/or radiographic evidence of progressive disease. The outcome of this phase II trial warrants new studies on the use of low-dose cyclophosphamide to potentiate the immunogenicity of the p53-SLP vaccine or other antitumor vaccines.
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