Status of activation of circulating vaccine-elicited CD8+ T cells.
Selective blunting of the status of activation of circulating tumor-specific T cells was invoked to explain their paradoxical coexistence with unhampered tumor growth. By analogy, lack of tumor regression in the face of observable melanoma vaccine-induced T cell responses might be attributed to their status of activation. We enumerated with HLA-A*0201/peptide tetramers (tHLA) vaccine-elicited T cell precursor frequency directly in PBMC of patients with melanoma undergoing vaccination with the HLA-A*0201-associated gp100:209-217(210 M) epitope (g209-2 M). Furthermore, we tested by intracellular (IC)-FACS analysis and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) the ability of postvaccination PBMC to produce cytokine in response to challenge with vaccine-related epitopes or vaccine-matched (HLA-A*0201) melanoma cells. Vaccine-induced enhancement of T cell precursor frequency could be detected with tHLA in PBMC from six of eight patients studied at frequencies ranging between 0.3 and 2.3% of the total CD8+ population. Stimulation with vaccine-related epitopes induced IFN-gamma expression detectable by IC-FACS or qRT-PCR, respectively, in five and six of these patients. Furthermore, down-regulation of tHLA staining was noted upon cognate stimulation that could be utilized as an additional marker of T cell responsiveness. Finally, we observed in six patients an enhancement of reactivity against vaccine-matched tumor targets that was partly independent of documented vaccine-specific immune responses. A strong correlation was noted between tHLA staining of postvaccination PBMC and IFN-gamma expression by the same samples upon vaccine-relevant stimulation and assessed either by IC-FACS or qRT-PCR. Thus, blunting of the status of T cell activation on itself cannot easily explain the lack of clinical responses observed with vaccination.
Nielsen, MB; Monsurro, V; Migueles, SA; Wang, E; Perez-Diez, A; Lee, KH; Kammula, U; Rosenberg, SA; Marincola, FM
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