Background: Lymphomas are the 5th most common cancer in the U.S. and most are incurable with standard therapy. Previously, we completed three trials of ‘in situ vaccination’ - combining low-dose radiotherapy (XRT) with intratumoral administration of TLR9 agonist (CpG). We demonstrated induction of anti-tumor CD8 T cell responses and clinical remissions of patients' non-irradiated sites of disease, lasting up to 4+ years. One limitation may have been the paucity of intratumoral dendritic cells (DC). DC are uniquely able to endocytose dying (e.g. irradiated) tumor cells for cross-presentation to anti-tumor CD8 T cells.

Methods: Flt3L – the predominant DC differentiation factor– induces tumor leukocyte infiltration and regression of lymphoma tumors pre-clinically and a new formulation of this cytokine -CDX-301- was shown to mobilize BDCA-1 and BDCA-3 DC subsets in an early phase trial. These DC subsets respond to several TLR agonists and cross-present antigens more effectively than plasmacytoid DC (the CpG-responsive DC subset). We initiated a phase I/II study of a new iteration of the in situ vaccine, adding Flt3L-priming and replacing the prior TLR9 agonist with the TLR3 agonist poly-ICLC (Fig 1A). The vaccine consists of:

  • intratumoral Flt3L administration to increase DC within the tumor

  • low-dose XRT to induce immunogenic tumor cell death and release tumor-associated antigens, and

  • intratumoral poly-ICLC administration to activate tumor antigen-loaded DC.

Results: Six patients have been enrolled, two patients have completed therapy. Treated patients had 2-200-fold increases in BDCA1 and BDCA3 intratumoral DC after Flt3L administration and marked DC activation after XRT and poly-ICLC. Both treated patients have had partial remissions of untreated sites per Cheson criteria, persisting or improving for >6 months after vaccination. These include regressions of bulky lymph nodes (Fig 1B), as well as peripheral blood (Fig1C) and bone marrow disease. A patient with significant peripheral blood tumor burden experienced >10-fold decrease in malignant B cells with concurrent increase in non-tumor B cells, suggesting a degree of cell specificity in the tumor-killing mechanism.

Conclusions: Preliminary results suggest that the Flt3L-primed in situ vaccine is feasible, safe and immunologically and clinically effective, warranting further study.

Research supported by:

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Award

Lymphoma Research Foundation Clinical Research Mentorship Program

Citation Format: Thomas Marron, Nina Bhardwaj, Elizabeth Crowley, Tibor Keler, Thomas Davis, Andres Salazar, Joshua Brody. Turning a tumor into a vaccine factory: In situ vaccination for low-grade lymphoma. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference: Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy: A New Chapter; December 1-4, 2014; Orlando, FL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2015;3(10 Suppl):Abstract nr IA03.