Vaccine-induced ErbB (EGFR/HER2)-specific immunity in spontaneous canine cancer

Transl Oncol. 2021 Nov;14(11):101205. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2021.101205. Epub 2021 Aug 19.


Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) is overexpressed on a number of human cancers, and often is indicative of a poor outcome. Treatment of EGFR/HER2 overexpressing cancers includes monoclonal antibody therapy (cetuximab/trastuzumab) either alone or in conjunction with other standard cancer therapies. While monoclonal antibody therapy has been proven to be efficacious in the treatment of EGFR/HER2 overexpressing tumors, drawbacks include the lack of long-lasting immunity and acquired resistance to monoclonal therapy. An alternative approach is to induce a polyclonal anti-EGFR/HER2 tumor antigen response by vaccine therapy. In this phase I/II open-label study, we examined anti-tumor immunity in companion dogs with spontaneous EGFR expressing tumors. Canine cancers represent an outbred population in which the initiation, progression of disease, mutations and growth factors closely resemble that of human cancers. Dogs with EGFR expressing tumors were immunized with a short peptide of the EGFR extracellular domain with sequence homology to HER2. Serial serum analyses demonstrated high titers of EGFR/HER2 binding antibodies with biological activity similar to that of cetuximab and trastuzumab. Canine antibodies bound both canine and human EGFR on tumor cell lines and tumor tissue. CD8 T cells and IgG deposition were evident in tumors from immunized dogs. The antibodies inhibited EGFR intracellular signaling and inhibited tumor growth in vitro. Additionally, we illustrate objective responses in reducing tumors at metastatic sites in host animals. The data support the approach of amplifying anti-tumor immunity that may be relevant in combination with other immune modifying therapies such as checkpoint inhibitors.

Keywords: Abbreviations: BSA, bovine serum albumin; CTLA-4, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4; Canine; DAPI, 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole; EGF, epidermal growth factor; EGFR; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; FBS, fetal bovine serum; GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3 phosphate dehydrogenase; HER2, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, HER3, human epidermal growth factor receptor 3; HER4, human epidermal growth factor receptor 4; MFI, mean fluorescence intensity; MHC, major histocompatibility complex; OD, optical density; OSA, osteosarcoma; Osteosarcoma; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; Peptide; RT, room temperature; Vaccine; pERK, phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase; pNPP, p-nitrophenyl phosphate.