Cancer vaccines targeting nonmutated proteins elicit limited type I T-cell responses and can generate regulatory and type II T cells. Class II epitopes that selectively elicit type I or type II cytokines can be identified in nonmutated cancer-associated proteins. In mice, a T-helper I (Th1) selective insulin-like growth factor binding protein-2 (IGFBP-2) N-terminus vaccine generated high levels of IFNγ secreting T cells, no regulatory T cells, and significant antitumor activity. We conducted a phase I trial of T-helper 1 selective IGFBP-2 vaccination in patients with advanced ovarian cancer.
Twenty-five patients were enrolled. The IGFBP-2 N-terminus plasmid-based vaccine was administered monthly for 3 months. Toxicity was graded by NCI criteria and antigen-specific T cells measured by IFNγ/IL10 ELISPOT. T-cell diversity and phenotype were assessed.
The vaccine was well tolerated, with 99% of adverse events graded 1 or 2, and generated high levels of IGFBP-2 IFNγ secreting T cells in 50% of patients. Both Tbet+ CD4 (P = 0.04) and CD8 (P = 0.007) T cells were significantly increased in immunized patients. There was no increase in GATA3+ CD4 or CD8, IGFBP-2 IL10 secreting T cells, or regulatory T cells. A significant increase in T-cell clonality occurred in immunized patients (P = 0.03, pre- vs. post-vaccine) and studies showed the majority of patients developed epitope spreading within IGFBP-2 and/or to other antigens. Vaccine nonresponders were more likely to have preexistent IGFBP-2 specific immunity and demonstrated defects in CD4 T cells, upregulation of PD-1, and downregulation of genes associated with T-cell activation, after immunization.
IGFBP-2 N-terminus Th1 selective vaccination safely induces type I T cells without evidence of regulatory responses.