BACKGROUND: Telomerase activity in leukemic blasts frequently is increased among patients with high-risk acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In the current study, the authors evaluated the feasibility, safety, immunogenicity, and therapeutic potential of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT)-expressing autologous dendritic cells (hTERT-DCs) in adult patients with AML. METHODS: hTERT-DCs were produced from patient-specific leukapheresis, electroporated with an mRNA-encoding hTERT and a lysosomal-targeting sequence, and cryopreserved. A total of 22 patients with a median age of 58 years (range, 30-75 years) with intermediate-risk or high-risk AML in first or second complete remission (CR) were enrolled. hTERT-DCs were generated for 24 patients (73%). A median of 17 intradermal vaccinations (range, 6-32 intradermal vaccinations) containing 1×107 cells were administered as 6 weekly injections followed by 6 biweekly injections. A total of 21 patients (16 in first CR, 3 in second CR, and 2 with early disease recurrence) received hTERT-DCs. RESULTS: hTERT-DCs were well tolerated with no severe toxicities reported, with the exception of 1 patient who developed idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Of the 19 patients receiving hTERT-DCs in CR, 11 patients (58%) developed hTERT-specific T-cell responses that primarily were targeted toward hTERT peptides with predicted low human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-binding affinities. With a median follow-up of 52 months, 58% of patients in CR (11 of 19 patients) were free of disease recurrence at the time of their last follow-up visit; 57% of the patients who were aged ≥60 years (4 of 7 patients) also were found to be free of disease recurrence at a median follow-up of 54 months. CONCLUSIONS: The generation of hTERT-DCs is feasible and vaccination with hTERT-DCs appears to be safe and may be associated with favorable recurrence-free survival. Cancer 2017;123:3061–72.
- T cells
- acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- dendritic cells
- human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT)
- recurrence-free survival