The route of administration dictates the immunogenicity of peptide-based cancer vaccines in mice

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2019 Mar;68(3):455-466. doi: 10.1007/s00262-018-02294-5. Epub 2019 Jan 2.


Vaccines consisting of synthetic peptides representing cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes have long been considered as a simple and cost-effective approach to treat cancer. However, the efficacy of these vaccines in the clinic in patients with measurable disease remains questionable. We believe that the poor performance of peptide vaccines is due to their inability to generate sufficiently large CTL responses that are required to have a positive impact against established tumors. Peptide vaccines to elicit CTLs in the clinic have routinely been administered in the same manner as vaccines designed to induce antibody responses: injected subcutaneously and in many instances using Freund's adjuvant. We report here that peptide vaccines and poly-ICLC adjuvant administered via the unconventional intravenous route of immunization generate substantially higher CTL responses as compared to conventional subcutaneous injections, resulting in more successful antitumor effects in mice. Furthermore, amphiphilic antigen constructs such as palmitoylated peptides were shown to be better immunogens than long peptide constructs, which now are in vogue in the clinic. The present findings if translated into the clinical setting could help dissipate the wide-spread skepticism of whether peptide vaccines will ever work to treat cancer.

Keywords: CD8 T cells; Melanoma; Peptide vaccines; Route of injection.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravenous
  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, Subunit / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Subunit / immunology


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Subunit