Multi-Epitope-Based Vaccines for Colon Cancer Treatment and Prevention

Front Immunol. 2021 Aug 30:12:729809. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.729809. eCollection 2021.


Background: Overexpression of nonmutated proteins involved in oncogenesis is a mechanism by which such proteins become immunogenic. We questioned whether overexpressed colorectal cancer associated proteins found at higher incidence and associated with poor prognosis could be effective vaccine antigens. We explored whether vaccines targeting these proteins could inhibit the development of intestinal tumors in the azoxymethane (AOM)-induced colon model and APC Min mice.

Methods: Humoral immunity was evaluated by ELISA. Web-based algorithms identified putative Class II binding epitopes of the antigens. Peptide and protein specific T-cells were identified from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells using IFN-gamma ELISPOT. Peptides highly homologous between mouse and man were formulated into vaccines and tested for immunogenicity in mice and in vivo tumor challenge. Mice treated with AOM and APC Min transgenic mice were vaccinated and monitored for tumors.

Results: Serum IgG for CDC25B, COX2, RCAS1, and FASCIN1 was significantly elevated in colorectal cancer patient sera compared to volunteers (CDC25B p=0.002, COX-2 p=0.001, FASCIN1 and RCAS1 p<0.0001). Epitopes predicted to bind to human class II MHC were identified for each protein and T-cells specific for both the peptides and corresponding recombinant protein were generated from human lymphocytes validating these proteins as human antigens. Some peptides were highly homologous between mouse and humans and after immunization, mice developed both peptide and protein specific IFN-γ-secreting cell responses to CDC25B, COX2 and RCAS1, but not FASCIN1. FVB/nJ mice immunized with CDC25B or COX2 peptides showed significant inhibition of growth of the syngeneic MC38 tumor compared to control (p<0.0001). RCAS1 peptide vaccination showed no anti-tumor effect. In the prophylactic setting, after immunization with CDC25B or COX2 peptides mice treated with AOM developed significantly fewer tumors as compared to controls (p<0.0002) with 50% of mice remaining tumor free in each antigen group. APC Min mice immunized with CDC25B or COX2 peptides developed fewer small bowel tumors as compared to controls (p=0.01 and p=0.02 respectively).

Conclusions: Immunization with CDC25B and COX2 epitopes consistently suppressed tumor development in each model evaluated. These data lay the foundation for the development of multi-antigen vaccines for the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer.

Keywords: CDC25B; COX2; IFN-gamma; colon cancer; immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / pharmacology*
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / pharmacology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / immunology
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / pharmacology*
  • Epitopes*
  • Female
  • Genes, APC
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Immunogenicity, Vaccine
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Middle Aged
  • Vaccination
  • Young Adult
  • cdc25 Phosphatases / immunology
  • cdc25 Phosphatases / pharmacology*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Autoantibodies
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Ptgs2 protein, mouse
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • CDC25B protein, human
  • Cdc25b protein, mouse
  • cdc25 Phosphatases