Immunotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) shows considerable promise in improving clinical outcomes. HepaVac-101 represents a single-arm, first-in-human phase I/II multicenter cancer vaccine trial for HCC (NCT03203005). It combines multipeptide antigens (IMA970A) with the TLR7/8/RIG I agonist CV8102. IMA970A includes 5 HLA-A*24 and 7 HLA-A*02 as well as 4 HLA-DR restricted peptides selected after mass spectrometric identification in human HCC tissues or cell lines. CV8102 is an RNA-based immunostimulator inducing a balanced Th1/Th2 immune response.
A total of 82 patients with very early- to intermediate-stage HCCs were enrolled and screened for suitable HLA haplotypes and 22 put on study treatment. This consisted in a single infusion of low-dose cyclophosphamide followed by nine intradermal coadministrations of IMA970A and CV8102. Only patients with no disease relapse after standard-of-care treatments were vaccinated. The primary endpoints of the HepaVac-101 clinical trial were safety, tolerability, and antigen-specific T-cell responses. Secondary or exploratory endpoints included additional immunologic parameters and survival endpoints.
The vaccination showed a good safety profile. Transient mild-to-moderate injection-site reactions were the most frequent IMA970A/CV8102-related side effects. Immune responses against ≥1 vaccinated HLA class I tumor-associated peptide (TAA) and ≥1 vaccinated HLA class II TAA were respectively induced in 37% and 53% of the vaccinees.
Immunotherapy may provide a great improvement in treatment options for HCC. HepaVac-101 is a first-in-human clinical vaccine trial with multiple novel HLA class I– and class II–restricted TAAs against HCC. The results are initial evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine. Further clinical evaluations are warranted.