Using lymph node swelling as a potential biomarker for successful vaccination

Oncotarget. 2016 Jun 14;7(24):35655-35669. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.9580.


There is currently a lack of biomarkers to help properly assess novel immunotherapies at both the preclinical and clinical stages of development. Recent work done by our group indicated significant volume changes in the vaccine draining right lymph node (RLN) volumes of mice that had been vaccinated with DepoVaxTM, a lipid-based vaccine platform that was developed to enhance the potency of peptide-based vaccines. These changes in lymph node (LN) volume were unique to vaccinated mice.To better assess the potential of volumetric LN markers for multiple vaccination platforms, we evaluated 100 tumor bearing mice and assessed their response to vaccination with either a DepoVax based vaccine (DPX) or a water-in-oil emulsion (w/o), and compared them to untreated controls. MRI was used to longitudinally monitor LN and tumor volumes weekly over 4 weeks. We then evaluated changes in LN volumes occurring in response to therapy as a potential predictive biomarker for treatment success.We found that for both vaccine types, DPX and w/o, the %RLN volumetric increase over baseline and the ratio of RLN/LLN were strong predictors of successful tumor suppression (LLN is left inguinal LN). The area under the curve (AUC) was greatest, between 0.75-0.85, two (%RLN) or three (RLN/LLN) weeks post-vaccination. For optimized critical thresholds we found these biomarkers consistently had sensitivity >90% and specificity >70% indicating strong prognostic potential. Vaccination with DepoVax had a more pronounced effect on draining lymph nodes than w/o emulsion vaccines, which correlated with a higher anti-tumor activity in DPX-treated mice.

Keywords: Immune response; Immunity; Immunology and Microbiology Section; biomarker; cancer; emulsion; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); vaccines.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / chemistry
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy
  • Vaccination / methods*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines