A dendritic cell-based, Type 1 Helper T cell (Th1)-polarizing anti-Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-2 (HER-2) vaccine supplied in the neoadjuvant setting eliminates disease in up to 30% of recipients with HER-2-positive (HER-2pos) ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). We hypothesized that drugs with low toxicity profiles that target signaling pathways critical for oncogenesis may work in conjunction with vaccine-induced immune effector mechanisms to improve efficacy while minimizing side effects. In this study, a panel of four phenotypically diverse human breast cancer lines were exposed in vitro to the combination of Th1 cytokines Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α) and lipophilic statins. This combination was shown to potentiate multiple markers of apoptotic cell death. The combination of statin drugs and Th1 cytokines minimized membrane K-Ras localization while maximizing levels in the cytoplasm, suggesting a possible means by which cytokines and statin drugs might cooperate to maximize cell death. A combined therapy was also tested in vivo through an orthotopic murine model using the neu-transgenic TUBO mammary carcinoma line. We showed that the combination of HER-2 peptide-pulsed dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy and simvastatin, but not single agents, significantly suppressed tumor growth. Consistent with a Th1 cytokine-dependent mechanism, parenterally administered recombinant IFN-γ could substitute for DC-based immunotherapy, likewise inhibiting tumor growth when combined with simvastatin. These studies show that statin drugs can amplify a DC-induced effector mechanism to improve anti-tumor activity.
Keywords: Ras; apoptosis; breast cancer; cytokine; statin; vaccine.