Purpose: The prognosis of patients with advanced biliary tract cancer (BTC) is extremely poor and there are only a few standard treatments. We conducted a phase I trial to investigate the safety, immune response, and antitumor effect of vaccination with four peptides derived from cancer-testis antigens, with a focus on their fluctuations during long-term vaccination until the disease had progressed.
Experimental design: Nine patients with advanced BTC who had unresectable tumors and were refractory to standard chemotherapy were enrolled. HLA-A*2402-restricted epitope peptides, lymphocyte antigen 6 complex locus K, TTK protein kinase, insulin-like growth factor-II mRNA-binding protein 3, and DEP domain containing 1 were vaccinated subcutaneously once a week at doses of 0.5, 1, or 2 mg and continued until disease progression. The adverse events were assessed by Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events and the immune response was monitored by an enzyme-linked immunospot assay or by flow cytometry. The clinical effects observed were tumor response, progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS).
Results: Four-peptide vaccination was well tolerated. No grade 3 or 4 adverse events were observed. Peptide-specific T-cell immune responses were observed in seven of nine patients and clinical responses were observed in six of nine patients. The median PFS and OS were 156 and 380 days. The injection site reaction and CTL induction seemed to be prognostic factors of both PFS and OS.
Conclusions: Four-peptide vaccination was well tolerated and seemed to provide some clinical benefit to some patients. These immunologic and clinical responses were maintained over the long term through continuous vaccinations.