Breast cancer vaccines composed of antigens identified by serological analysis of cDNA expression libraries (SEREX) induce antigen specific immune responses in patients but have had disappointing clinical benefits. While many attempts to modify the adjuvants and vaccine method have been tried, one issue not addressed was whether the SEREX tumor-associated antigens identified from late stages of disease were ideal targets. We questioned in the transgenic TgMMTV-neu mouse model whether the antigen repertoire is distinct between early and late stage breast cancer and whether the antigens identified via SEREX from transgenic mice with early or late stage tumors would elicit differential anti-tumor effects to address this question. Three early stage antigens, Pdhx, Stk39, and Otud6B, were identified from a SEREX screen of mice prior to development of palpable lesions. Formulated into a vaccine, each early antigen inhibited tumor growth (p < 0.0001). The antigens identified from mice with late stage tumors (Swap70, Gsn, and Arhgef2) were unable to inhibit tumor growth when used as vaccines (for example Gsn p = 0.26). Each of the three early stage antigens were essential for tumor survival in syngeneic mouse tumor cells and in human breast cancer cell lines across breast cancer subtypes. Silencing protein expression of the early antigens increased apoptosis (p < 0.0001 for all antigens in mouse and p < 0.05 for all antigens in human triple negative breast cancer) and decreased survival (p < 0.0001 for all antigens in mouse and human triple negative and HER2 positive breast cancer). Overexpression of the early stage antigens in women with breast cancer predicted worse prognosis (p = 0.03) while overexpression of late stage antigens did not impact prognosis (p = 0.09). These data suggest that antigens expressed earlier in breast tumor development and functionally relevant to breast tumor growth may be more effective targets for therapeutic breast cancer vaccines than antigens identified in later disease.
Keywords: Breast cancer prevention; DNA vaccines; Mouse mammary tumor models; Th1; Vaccine antigens.
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