The therapeutic synthetic long peptide (SLP) vaccine ISA101 selectively enlarges the pool of tumor-specific T cells recognizing the human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) antigens E6 and E7. Vaccine monotherapy for HPV16-induced pre-malignant anogenital lesions is effective, inducing durable complete regressions in approximately 50% of treated patients. However, cancer treatment requires appropriate countermeasures to overcome the suppression of T-cell activation, expansion and effector function imposed by suppressive myeloid cell populations, regulatory T cells and co-inhibitory molecule expression. We recently showed that carboplatin/paclitaxel chemotherapy can normalize the abnormally high levels of immune suppressive myeloid cells, allowing the development of much stronger therapeutic ISA101-induced tumor immunity1. Here we show the effects of ISA101 vaccination during chemotherapy in 77 patients with advanced, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer in a dose assessment study. Study design involved a single arm dose escalation study with four different ISA101 doses (20, 40, 100 and 300 µg per peptide) with or without immunomodulator pegylated interferon alpha (Pegitron), given concomitantly with standard of care chemotherapy (carboplatin, AUC 6; paclitaxel, 175 mg/m2). Objective regressions were observed in 43% of 72 evaluable patients. The depletion of myeloid suppressive cells by carboplatin/paclitaxel was associated with detection of low level spontaneous HPV16-specific immunity in 26 of the 61 tested patients. Patients mounted type 1 T-cell responses to the vaccine across all doses. No significant differences were observed between the different doses and strength of vaccine-induced T cell responses; the results were therefore combined. Patients with an above median HPV16-specific T cell immune response to ISA101, measured by a validated IFNγ-Elispot, displayed a significantly prolonged median overall survival (OS) of 16.8 months compared to those with a lower HPV-specific immune response (OS 11.2 months, logrank p=0.012). Importantly, this effect was not due to differences in general immune status, as measured by T-cell reactivity to unrelated common microbial recall

antigens. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that chemo-immunotherapy can be exploited to the benefit of patients with cervical cancer and warrants confirmation of the benefit of this type of chemo-immunotherapy in a randomized controlled study in HPV16-induced cancer patients.

1Welters, M. J. et al. Vaccination during myeloid cell depletion by cancer chemotherapy fosters robust T cell responses. Sci Transl Med8, 334ra352, doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aad8307 (2016).

Citation Format: Cornelis J M Melief, Marij J. Welters, Ignace Vergote, Judith R. Kroep, Gemma G. Kenter, Nelleke Ottevanger, Wiebren A. Tjalma, Hannelore Denys, Mariette van Poelgeest, Hans W. Nijman, Anna K. Reyners, Thierry Velu, Frederic Goffin, Roy Lalisang, Willem-Jan Krebber, Leon Hooftman, Sonja Visscher, Brent A. Blumenstein, Richard B. Stead, Winald Gerritsen, Sjoerd van der Burg. A strong HPV-specific T-cell response after chemo-immunotherapy for advanced cervical cancer is associated with prolonged survival [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr CT002.