Optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines elicit neoantigen-specific immune responses in preclinical models and in clinical translation

Lijin Li, Xiuli Zhang, Xiaoli Wang, Samuel W. Kim, John M. Herndon, Michelle K. Becker-Hapak, Beatriz M. Carreno, Nancy B. Myers, Mark A. Sturmoski, Michael D. McLellan, Christopher A. Miller, Tanner M. Johanns, Benjamin R. Tan, Gavin P. Dunn, Timothy P. Fleming, Ted H. Hansen, S. Peter Goedegebuure, William E. Gillanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Preclinical studies and early clinical trials have shown that targeting cancer neoantigens is a promising approach towards the development of personalized cancer immunotherapies. DNA vaccines can be rapidly and efficiently manufactured and can integrate multiple neoantigens simultaneously. We therefore sought to optimize the design of polyepitope DNA vaccines and test optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines in preclinical models and in clinical translation. Methods: We developed and optimized a DNA vaccine platform to target multiple neoantigens. The polyepitope DNA vaccine platform was first optimized using model antigens in vitro and in vivo. We then identified neoantigens in preclinical breast cancer models through genome sequencing and in silico neoantigen prediction pipelines. Optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines specific for the murine breast tumor E0771 and 4T1 were designed and their immunogenicity was tested in vivo. We also tested an optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccine in a patient with metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. Results: Our data support an optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccine design encoding long (≥20-mer) epitopes with a mutant form of ubiquitin (Ubmut) fused to the N-terminus for antigen processing and presentation. Optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines were immunogenic and generated robust neoantigen-specific immune responses in mice. The magnitude of immune responses generated by optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines was similar to that of synthetic long peptide vaccines specific for the same neoantigens. When combined with immune checkpoint blockade therapy, optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines were capable of inducing antitumor immunity in preclinical models. Immune monitoring data suggest that optimized polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccines are capable of inducing neoantigen-specific T cell responses in a patient with metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. Conclusions: We have developed and optimized a novel polyepitope neoantigen DNA vaccine platform that can target multiple neoantigens and induce antitumor immune responses in preclinical models and neoantigen-specific responses in clinical translation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalGenome medicine
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Breast cancer
  • Neoantigen
  • Polyepitope DNA vaccine

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