Neoadjuvant PROSTVAC prior to radical prostatectomy enhances T-cell infiltration into the tumor immune microenvironment in men with prostate cancer

J Immunother Cancer. 2020 Mar;8(1):e000655. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2020-000655.


Background: Clinical trials have shown the ability of therapeutic vaccines to generate immune responses to tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). What is relatively less known is if this translates into immune-cell (IC) infiltration into the tumor microenvironment. This study examined whether neoadjuvant prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-targeted vaccination with PROSTVAC could induce T-cell immunity, particularly at the tumor site.

Methods: An open-label, phase II study of neoadjuvant PROSTVAC vaccine enrolled 27 patients with localized prostate cancer awaiting radical prostatectomy (RP). We evaluated increases in CD4 and CD8 T-cell infiltrates (RP tissue vs baseline biopsies) using a six-color multiplex immunofluorescence Opal method. Antigen-specific responses were assessed by intracellular cytokine staining after in vitro stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with overlapping 15-mer peptide pools encoding the TAAs PSA, brachyury and MUC-1.

Results: Of 27 vaccinated patients, 26 had matched prevaccination (biopsy) and postvaccination (RP) prostate samples available for non-compartmentalized analysis (NCA) and compartmentalized analysis (CA). Tumor CD4 T-cell infiltrates were significantly increased in postvaccination RP specimens compared with baseline biopsies by NCA (median 176/mm² vs 152/mm²; IQR 136-317/mm² vs 69-284/mm²; p=0.0249; median ratio 1.20; IQR 0.64-2.25). By CA, an increase in both CD4 T-cell infiltrates at the tumor infiltrative margin (median 198/mm² vs 151/mm²; IQR 123-500/mm² vs 85-256/mm²; p=0.042; median ratio 1.44; IQR 0.59-4.17) and in CD8 T-cell infiltrates at the tumor core (median 140/mm² vs 105/mm²; IQR 91-175/mm² vs 83-163/mm²; p=0.036; median ratio 1.25; IQR 0.88-2.09) were noted in postvaccination RP specimens compared with baseline biopsies. A total of 13/25 patients (52%) developed peripheral T-cell responses to any of the three tested TAAs (non-neoantigens); five of these had responses to more than one antigen of the three evaluated.

Conclusion: Neoadjuvant PROSTVAC can induce both tumor immune response and peripheral immune response.

Trial registration number: NCT02153918.

Keywords: clinical trials as topic; immunotherapy, active; tumor microenvironment; urologic neoplasms; vaccination.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Prostatectomy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Cancer Vaccines

Associated data