Eradicating malignant tumors by vaccine-elicited host immunity remains a major medical challenge. To date, correlates of immune protection remain unknown for malignant mesothelioma. In this study, we demonstrated that antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell immune response correlates with the elimination of malignant mesothelioma by a model PD-1-based DNA vaccine. Unlike the nonprotective tumor antigen WT1-based DNA vaccines, the model vaccine showed complete and long-lasting protection against lethal mesothelioma challenge in immunocompetent BALB/c mice. Furthermore, it remained highly immunogenic in tumor-bearing animals and led to therapeutic cure of preexisting mesothelioma. T-cell depletion and adoptive transfer experiments revealed that vaccine-elicited CD8+ T cells conferred to the protective efficacy in a dose-dependent way. Also, these CD8+ T cells functioned by releasing inflammatory IFNγ and TNFα in the vicinity of target cells as well as by initiating TRAIL-directed tumor cell apoptosis. Importantly, repeated DNA vaccinations, a major advantage over live-vectored vaccines with issues of preexisting immunity, achieve an active functional state, not only preventing the rise of exhausted PD-1+ and Tim-3+ CD8+ T cells but also suppressing tumor-induced myeloid-derived suppressive cells and Treg cells, with the frequency of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells inversely correlating with tumor mass. Our results provide new insights into quantitative and qualitative requirements of vaccine-elicited functional CD8+ T cells in cancer prevention and immunotherapy.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Cancer Research