The intrinsic pharmacokinetic limitations of traditional peptide-based cancer vaccines hamper effective cross-presentation and codelivery of antigens and adjuvants, which are crucial for inducing robust antitumor CD8+ T-cell responses. Here, we report the development of a versatile strategy that simultaneously addresses the different pharmacokinetic challenges of soluble subunit vaccines composed of antigens and CpG to modulate vaccine efficacy via translating an engineered chimeric peptide, eTAT, as an intramolecular adjuvant. Linking antigens to eTAT enhanced cytosolic delivery of the antigens. This, in turn, led to improved activation and lymph node–trafficking of antigen-presenting cells and antigen cross-presentation, thus promoting antigen-specific T-cell immune responses. Simple mixing of eTAT-linked antigens and CpG significantly enhanced codelivery of antigens and CpG to the antigen-presenting cells, and this substantially augmented the adjuvant effect of CpG, maximized vaccine immunogenicity and elicited robust and durable CD8+ T-cell responses. Vaccination with this formulation altered the tumor microenvironment and exhibited potent antitumor effects, with generally further enhanced therapeutic efficacy when used in combination with anti-PD1. Altogether, the engineered chimeric peptide–based orchestrated codelivery of antigen and adjuvant may serve as a promising but simple strategy to improve the efficacy of peptide-based cancer vaccines.

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