Background: Cancer vaccines can effectively establish clinically relevant tumor immunity. Novel sequencing approaches rapidly identify the mutational fingerprint of tumors, thus allowing to generate personalized tumor vaccines within a few weeks from diagnosis. Here, we report the case of a 62-year-old patient receiving a four-peptide-vaccine targeting the two sole mutations of his pancreatic tumor, identified via exome sequencing.
Methods: Vaccination started during chemotherapy in second complete remission and continued monthly thereafter. We tracked IFN-γ+ T cell responses against vaccine peptides in peripheral blood after 12, 17 and 34 vaccinations by analyzing T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire diversity and epitope-binding regions of peptide-reactive T-cell lines and clones. By restricting analysis to sorted IFN-γ-producing T cells we could assure epitope-specificity, functionality, and TH1 polarization.
Results: A peptide-specific T-cell response against three of the four vaccine peptides could be detected sequentially. Molecular TCR analysis revealed a broad vaccine-reactive TCR repertoire with clones of discernible specificity. Four identical or convergent TCR sequences could be identified at more than one time-point, indicating timely persistence of vaccine-reactive T cells. One dominant TCR expressing a dual TCRVα chain could be found in three T-cell clones. The observed T-cell responses possibly contributed to clinical outcome: The patient is alive 6 years after initial diagnosis and in complete remission for 4 years now.
Conclusions: Therapeutic vaccination with a neoantigen-derived four-peptide vaccine resulted in a diverse and long-lasting immune response against these targets which was associated with prolonged clinical remission. These data warrant confirmation in a larger proof-of concept clinical trial.
Keywords: CDR3 sequences; Neoepitope-derived peptides; Pancreatic carcinoma; T-cell responses; Therapeutic vaccines.