Background and aims: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a difficult to treat tumor with a poor prognosis. Aspartate β-hydroxylase (ASPH) is a highly conserved enzyme overexpressed on the cell surface of both murine and human HCC cells.
Methods: We evaluated therapeutic effects of nanoparticle lambda (λ) phage vaccine constructs against ASPH expressing murine liver tumors. Mice were immunized before and after subcutaneous implantation of a syngeneic BNL HCC cell line. Antitumor actively was assessed by generation of antigen specific cellular immune responses and the identification of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes.
Results: Prophylactic and therapeutic immunization significantly delayed HCC growth and progression. ASPH-antigen specific CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes were identified in the spleen of tumor bearing mice and cytotoxicity was directed against ASPH expressing BNL HCC cells. Furthermore, vaccination generated antigen specific Th1 and Th2 cytokine secretion by immune cells. There was widespread necrosis with infiltration of CD3+ and CD8+ T cells in HCC tumors of λ phage vaccinated mice compared to controls. Moreover, further confirmation of anti-tumor effects on ASPH expressing tumor cell growth were obtained in another murine syngeneic vaccine model with pulmonary metastases.
Conclusions: These observations suggest that ASPH may serve as a highly antigenic target for immunotherapy.
Keywords: Cancer research; Cell biology; Immunology; Medicine; Oncology; Vaccines.