Using magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate dendritic cell-based vaccination

PLoS One. 2013 May 29;8(5):e65318. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065318. Print 2013.


Cancer immunotherapy with antigen-loaded dendritic cell-based vaccines can induce clinical responses in some patients, but further optimization is required to unlock the full potential of this strategy in the clinic. Optimization is dependent on being able to monitor the cellular events that take place once the dendritic cells have been injected in vivo, and to establish whether antigen-specific immune responses to the tumour have been induced. Here we describe the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a simple, non-invasive approach to evaluate vaccine success. By loading the dendritic cells with highly magnetic iron nanoparticles it is possible to assess whether the injected cells drain to the lymph nodes. It is also possible to establish whether an antigen-specific response is initiated by assessing migration of successive rounds of antigen-loaded dendritic cells; in the face of a successfully primed cytotoxic response, the bulk of antigen-loaded cells are eradicated on-route to the node, whereas cells without antigen can reach the node unchecked. It is also possible to verify the induction of a vaccine-induced response by simply monitoring increases in draining lymph node size as a consequence of vaccine-induced lymphocyte trapping, which is an antigen-specific response that becomes more pronounced with repeated vaccination. Overall, these MRI techniques can provide useful early feedback on vaccination strategies, and could also be used in decision making to select responders from non-responders early in therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines / chemistry
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dendritic Cells / chemistry
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / transplantation
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Radiography
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Vaccination / methods


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Iron

Grant support

This research was supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Science and Innovation through grant PROJ-13733-NMTS. P.F. was supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council and the Wellington Medical Research Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.