Malignant Mesothelioma (MM) is a rare and highly aggressive cancer that develops from mesothelial cells lining the pleura and other internal cavities, and is often associated with asbestos exposure. To date, no effective treatments have been made available for this pathology. Herein, we propose a novel immunotherapeutic approach based on a unique vaccine targeting a series of antigens that we found expressed in different MM tumors, but largely undetectable in normal tissues. This vaccine, that we term p-Tvax, is comprised of a series of immunogenic peptides presented by both MHC-I and -II to generate robust immune responses. The peptides were designed using in silico algorithms that discriminate between highly immunogenic T cell epitopes and other harmful epitopes, such as suppressive regulatory T cell epitopes and autoimmune epitopes. Vaccination of mice with p-Tvax led to antigen-specific immune responses that involved both CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, which exhibited cytolytic activity against MM cells in vitro. In mice carrying MM tumors, p-Tvax increased tumor infiltration of CD4+ T cells. Moreover, combining p-Tvax with an OX40 agonist led to decreased tumor growth and increased survival. Mice treated with this combination immunotherapy displayed higher numbers of tumor-infiltrating CD8+ and CD4+ T cells and reduced T regulatory cells in tumors. Collectively, these data suggest that the combination of p-Tvax with an OX40 agonist could be an effective strategy for MM treatment.
Keywords: OX40; cancer vaccines; epimatrix; immunotherapy; mesothelioma.