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1.  Treatment of gastric peritoneal carcinomatosis by combining complete surgical resection of lesions and intraperitoneal immunotherapy using catumaxomab 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:148.
Background
The peritoneum is one of the most frequent sites of recurrent gastric carcinoma after curative treatment, despite the administration of pre- and/or postoperative systemic chemotherapy. Indeed, the prognosis of peritoneal carcinomatosis from gastric carcinoma continues to be poor, with a median survival of less than one year with systemic chemotherapy. Whereas the prognosis of peritoneal carcinomatosis from colorectal cancer has changed with the development of locally administered hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), survival results following carcinomatosis from gastric cancer remain disappointing, yielding a 5-year survival rate of less than 20%. Innovative surgical therapies such as intraperitoneal immunotherapy therefore need to be developed for the immediate postoperative period after complete cytoreductive surgery. In a recent randomised study, a clinical effect was obtained after intraperitoneal infusion of catumaxomab in patients with malignant ascites, notably from gastric carcinoma. Catumaxomab, a nonhumanized chimeric antibody, is characterized by its unique ability to bind to three different types of cells: tumour cells expressing the epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), T lymphocytes (CD3) and also accessory cells (Fcγ receptor). Because the peritoneum is an immunocompetent organ and up to 90% of gastric carcinomas express EpCAM, intraperitoneal infusion of catumaxomab after complete resection of all macroscopic disease (as defined in the treatment of carcinomatosis from colorectal cancer) could therefore efficiently treat microscopic residual disease.
Methods/design
The aim of this randomized phase II study is to assess 2-year overall survival after complete resection of limited carcinomatosis synchronous with gastric carcinoma, followed by an intraperitoneal infusion of catumaxomab with different total doses administered in each of the 2 arms. Close monitoring of peri-opertive mortality, morbidity and early surgical re-intervention will be done with stopping rules. Besides this analysis, translational research will be conducted to determine immunological markers of catumaxomab efficacy and to correlate these markers with clinical efficacy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-148
PMCID: PMC3973895  PMID: 24589307
Peritoneal carcinomatosis; Gastric carcinoma; Intraperitoneal chemotherapy; Immunotherapy; Catumaxomab
2.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2014;3(1):e27297.
Immunostimulatory monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) exert antineoplastic effects by eliciting a novel or reinstating a pre-existing antitumor immune response. Most often, immunostimulatory mAbs activate T lymphocytes or natural killer (NK) cells by inhibiting immunosuppressive receptors, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA4) or programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, best known as PD-1), or by engaging co-stimulatory receptors, like CD40, tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, member 4 (TNFRSF4, best known as OX40) or TNFRSF18 (best known as GITR). The CTLA4-targeting mAb ipilimumab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma in 2011. The therapeutic profile of ipilimumab other CTLA4-blocking mAbs, such as tremelimumab, is currently being assessed in subjects affected by a large panel of solid neoplasms. In the last few years, promising clinical results have also been obtained with nivolumab, a PD-1-targeting mAb formerly known as BMS-936558. Accordingly, the safety and efficacy of nivolumab and other PD-1-blocking molecules are being actively investigated. Finally, various clinical trials are underway to test the therapeutic potential of OX40- and GITR-activating mAbs. Here, we summarize recent findings on the therapeutic profile of immunostimulatory mAbs and discuss clinical trials that have been launched in the last 14 months to assess the therapeutic profile of these immunotherapeutic agents.
doi:10.4161/onci.27297
PMCID: PMC3961485
CD137; checkpoint blockade; immunogenic chemotherapy; immunosuppression; lirilumab; IPH2101; PD-L1
3.  Harnessing the immune system to provide long-term survival in patients with melanoma and other solid tumors 
Oncoimmunology  2014;3(1):e27560.
Accumulating data from patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors and other immunomodulatory agents indicate that harnessing the power of the immune system is integral to achieve improve long-term cancer containment rates and prolong patient survival. Due to their mechanism of action, immunotherapeutic approaches have the potential to be effective against almost every tumor type. Durable responses to immunotherapy and prolonged patient survival have indeed been documented in individuals with melanoma, as well as kidney and lung cancer. These advances call for the re-evaluation of how clinical benefit is measured in an era in which long-term tumor control and survival are achievable treatment goals.
doi:10.4161/onci.27560
PMCID: PMC3973659  PMID: 24719793
checkpoint inhibitors; immunotherapy; melanoma; solid tumors; survival; ulceration
4.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2014;3(1):e27048.
In 1997, for the first time in history, a monoclonal antibody (mAb), i.e., the chimeric anti-CD20 molecule rituximab, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in cancer patients. Since then, the panel of mAbs that are approved by international regulatory agencies for the treatment of hematopoietic and solid malignancies has not stopped to expand, nowadays encompassing a stunning amount of 15 distinct molecules. This therapeutic armamentarium includes mAbs that target tumor-associated antigens, as well as molecules that interfere with tumor-stroma interactions or exert direct immunostimulatory effects. These three classes of mAbs exert antineoplastic activity via distinct mechanisms, which may or may not involve immune effectors other than the mAbs themselves. In previous issues of OncoImmunology, we provided a brief scientific background to the use of mAbs, all types confounded, in cancer therapy, and discussed the results of recent clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of this approach. Here, we focus on mAbs that primarily target malignant cells or their interactions with stromal components, as opposed to mAbs that mediate antineoplastic effects by activating the immune system. In particular, we discuss relevant clinical findings that have been published during the last 13 months as well as clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to investigate the therapeutic profile of hitherto investigational tumor-targeting mAbs.
doi:10.4161/onci.27048
PMCID: PMC3937194  PMID: 24605265
bevacizumab; brentuximab vedotin; cetuximab; nimotuzumab; trastuzumab; tumor-associated antigen
5.  Immunological effects of chemotherapy in spontaneous breast cancers 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(12):e27158.
doi:10.4161/onci.27158
PMCID: PMC3912056  PMID: 24498568
HER2; CD8+ T lymphocytes; MMTV-NeuT mice; oncogene addiction; p53; trastuzumab
6.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(12):e26621.
Throughout the past 3 decades, along with the recognition that the immune system not only influences oncogenesis and tumor progression, but also determines how established neoplastic lesions respond therapy, renovated enthusiasm has gathered around the possibility of using vaccines as anticancer agents. Such an enthusiasm quickly tempered when it became clear that anticancer vaccines would have to be devised as therapeutic, rather than prophylactic, measures, and that malignant cells often fail to elicit (or actively suppress) innate and adaptive immune responses. Nonetheless, accumulating evidence indicates that a variety of anticancer vaccines, including cell-based, DNA-based, and purified component-based preparations, are capable of circumventing the poorly immunogenic and highly immunosuppressive nature of most tumors and elicit (at least under some circumstances) therapeutically relevant immune responses. Great efforts are currently being devoted to the identification of strategies that may provide anticancer vaccines with the capacity of breaking immunological tolerance and eliciting tumor-associated antigen-specific immunity in a majority of patients. In this sense, promising results have been obtained by combining anticancer vaccines with a relatively varied panels of adjuvants, including multiple immunostimulatory cytokines, Toll-like receptor agonists as well as inhibitors of immune checkpoints. One year ago, in the December issue of OncoImmunology, we discussed the biological mechanisms that underlie the antineoplastic effects of peptide-based vaccines and presented an abundant literature demonstrating the prominent clinical potential of such an approach. Here, we review the latest developments in this exciting area of research, focusing on high-profile studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to evaluate purified peptides or full-length proteins as therapeutic anticancer agents.
doi:10.4161/onci.26621
PMCID: PMC3902120  PMID: 24498550
adjuvants; dendritic cells; ipilimumab; NY-ESO-1; survivin; TLR agonists
7.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(11):e26494.
Lenalidomide is a synthetic derivative of thalidomide currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients affected by multiple myeloma (in combination with dexamethasone) and low or intermediate-1 risk myelodysplastic syndromes that harbor 5q cytogenetic abnormalities. For illustrative purposes, the mechanism of action of lenalidomide can be subdivided into a cancer cell-intrinsic, a stromal, and an immunological component. Indeed, lenalidomide not only exerts direct cell cycle-arresting and pro-apoptotic effects on malignant cells, but also interferes with their physical and functional interaction with the tumor microenvironment and mediates a robust, pleiotropic immunostimulatory activity. In particular, lenalidomide has been shown to stimulate the cytotoxic functions of T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, to limit the immunosuppressive impact of regulatory T cells, and to modulate the secretion of a wide range of cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor α, interferon γ as well as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, and IL-12. Throughout the last decade, the antineoplastic and immunostimulatory potential of lenalidomide has been investigated in patients affected by a wide variety of hematological and solid malignancies. Here, we discuss the results of these studies and review the status of clinical trials currently assessing the safety and efficacy of this potent immunomodulatory drug in oncological indications.
doi:10.4161/onci.26494
PMCID: PMC3897503  PMID: 24482747
CC-5013; IMiDs; TNFα; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; pomalidomide; regulatory T cells
8.  Immunohistochemical detection of cytoplasmic LC3 puncta in human cancer specimens 
Autophagy  2012;8(8):1175-1184.
Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved catabolic process that involves the entrapment of cytoplasmic components within characteristic vesicles for their delivery to and degradation within lysosomes. Alterations in autophagic signaling are found in several human diseases including cancer. Here, we describe a validated immunohistochemical protocol for the detection of LC3 puncta in human formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cancer specimens that can also be applied to mouse tissues. In response to systemic chemotherapy, autophagy-competent mouse tumors exhibited LC3 puncta, which did not appear in mouse cancers that had been rendered autophagy-deficient by the knockdown of Atg5 or Atg7. As compared with normal tissues, LC3 staining was moderately to highly elevated in the large majority of human cancers studied, albeit tumors of the same histological type tended to be highly heterogeneous in the number and intensity of LC3 puncta per cell. Moreover, tumor-infiltrating immune cells often were highly positive for LC3. Altogether, this protocol for LC3 staining appears suitable for the specific detection of LC3 puncta in human specimens, including tissue microarrays. We surmise that this technique can be employed for retrospective or prospective studies involving large series of human tumor samples.
doi:10.4161/auto.20353
PMCID: PMC3973657  PMID: 22647537
autophagosomes; CT26; immunohistochemistry; lysosomes; macroautophagy; MCA205
9.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(10):e25771.
Dendritic cells (DCs) occupy a privileged position at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity, orchestrating a large panel of responses to both physiological and pathological cues. In particular, whereas the presentation of antigens by immature DCs generally results in the development of immunological tolerance, mature DCs are capable of priming robust, and hence therapeutically relevant, adaptive immune responses. In line with this notion, functional defects in the DC compartment have been shown to etiologically contribute to pathological conditions including (but perhaps not limited to) infectious diseases, allergic and autoimmune disorders, graft rejection and cancer. Thus, the possibility of harnessing the elevated immunological potential of DCs for anticancer therapy has attracted considerable interest from both researchers and clinicians over the last decade. Alongside, several methods have been developed not only to isolate DCs from cancer patients, expand them, load them with tumor-associated antigens and hence generate highly immunogenic clinical grade infusion products, but also to directly target DCs in vivo. This intense experimental effort has culminated in 2010 with the approval by the US FDA of a DC-based preparation (sipuleucel-T, Provenge®) for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castration-refractory prostate cancer. As an update to the latest Trial Watch dealing with this exciting field of research (October 2012), here we summarize recent advances in DC-based anticancer regimens, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials that have been launched in the same period to assess the antineoplastic potential of this variant of cellular immunotherapy.
doi:10.4161/onci.25771
PMCID: PMC3841205  PMID: 24286020
antigen-presenting cells; immunogenic cell death; monoclonal antibodies; plasmacytoid dendritic cells; regulatory T cells; Toll-like receptors
10.  NCI First International Workshop on the Biology, Prevention, and Treatment of Relapse After Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: Report from the Committee on the Biological Considerations of Hematological Relapse following Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation Unrelated to Graft-versus-Tumor Effects: State of the Science 
Hematopoietic malignant relapse still remains the major cause of death following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Although there has been a large focus on the immunologic mechanisms responsible for the graft-versus-tumor (GVT) effect or lack thereof, there has been little attention paid to investigating the biologic basis of hematologic malignant disease relapse following allogeneic HSCT. There are a large number of factors that are responsible for the biologic resistance of hematopoietic tumors following allogeneic HSCT. We have focused on 5 major areas including clonal evolution of cancer drug resistance, cancer radiation resistance, genomic basis of leukemia resistance, cancer epigenetics, and resistant leukemia stem cells. We recommend increased funding to pursue 3 broad areas that will significantly enhance our understanding of the biologic basis of malignant relapse after allogeneic HSCT, including: (1) genomic and epigenetic alterations, (2) cancer stem cell biology, and (3) clonal cancer drug and radiation resistance.
doi:10.1016/j.bbmt.2010.03.002
PMCID: PMC3711411  PMID: 20227509
Relapse; Allogeneic stem cell transplant; Biology; Resistance; Cancer stem cells
11.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(9):e25595.
Radiotherapy has extensively been employed as a curative or palliative intervention against cancer throughout the last century, with a varying degree of success. For a long time, the antineoplastic activity of X- and γ-rays was entirely ascribed to their capacity of damaging macromolecules, in particular DNA, and hence triggering the (apoptotic) demise of malignant cells. However, accumulating evidence indicates that (at least part of) the clinical potential of radiotherapy stems from cancer cell-extrinsic mechanisms, including the normalization of tumor vasculature as well as short- and long-range bystander effects. Local bystander effects involve either the direct transmission of lethal signals between cells connected by gap junctions or the production of diffusible cytotoxic mediators, including reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide and cytokines. Conversely, long-range bystander effects, also known as out-of-field or abscopal effects, presumably reflect the elicitation of tumor-specific adaptive immune responses. Ionizing rays have indeed been shown to promote the immunogenic demise of malignant cells, a process that relies on the spatiotemporally defined emanation of specific damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Thus, irradiation reportedly improves the clinical efficacy of other treatment modalities such as surgery (both in neo-adjuvant and adjuvant settings) or chemotherapy. Moreover, at least under some circumstances, radiotherapy may potentiate anticancer immune responses as elicited by various immunotherapeutic agents, including (but presumably not limited to) immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies, cancer-specific vaccines, dendritic cell-based interventions and Toll-like receptor agonists. Here, we review the rationale of using radiotherapy, alone or combined with immunomodulatory agents, as a means to elicit or boost anticancer immune responses, and present recent clinical trials investigating the therapeutic potential of this approach in cancer patients.
doi:10.4161/onci.25595
PMCID: PMC3850274  PMID: 24319634
brachytherapy; immunogenic cell death; intensity-modulated radiation therapy; radionuclide; stereotactic body radiation therapy; stereotactic radiosurgery
12.  Following up tumor-specific regulatory T cells in cancer patients 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(7):e25444.
doi:10.4161/onci.25444
PMCID: PMC3782156  PMID: 24073383
regulatory T cell; immunomonitoring; cancer vaccine; immunosuppression; tumor antigen
13.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(8):e25238.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have long been known for their ability to initiate innate immune responses upon exposure to conserved microbial components such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and double-stranded RNA. More recently, this family of pattern recognition receptors has been attributed a critical role in the elicitation of anticancer immune responses, raising interest in the development of immunochemotherapeutic regimens based on natural or synthetic TLR agonists. In spite of such an intense wave of preclinical and clinical investigation, only three TLR agonists are currently licensed by FDA for use in cancer patients: bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG), an attenuated strain of Mycobacterium bovis that operates as a mixed TLR2/TLR4 agonist; monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL), a derivative of Salmonella minnesota that functions as a potent agonist of TLR4; and imiquimod, a synthetic imidazoquinoline that activates TLR7. One year ago, in the August and September issues of OncoImmunology, we described the main biological features of TLRs and discussed the progress of clinical studies evaluating the safety and therapeutic potential of TLR agonists in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this exciting area of research, focusing on preclinical studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate the antineoplastic activity of TLR agonists.
doi:10.4161/onci.25238
PMCID: PMC3782517  PMID: 24083080
CpG oligodeoxynucleotides; Hiltonol™; damage-associated molecular patterns; lipopolysaccharide; picibanil; resiquimod
14.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(7):e24850.
During the past two decades, the notion that cancer would merely constitute a cell-intrinsic disease has gradually been complemented by a model postulating that the immune system plays a relevant role during all stages of oncogenesis and tumor progression. Along with this conceptual shift, several strategies have been devised to stimulate tumor-specific immune responses, including relatively unselective approaches such as the systemic administration of adjuvants or immunomodulatory cytokines. One year ago, in the July issue of OncoImmunology, we described the main biological features of this large group of proteins and discussed the progress of ongoing clinical studies evaluating their safety and therapeutic potential in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this area of clinical research, focusing on high impact studies that have been published during the last 13 mo and clinical trials launched in the same period to investigate which cytokines can be employed as safe and efficient immunostimulatory interventions against cancer.
doi:10.4161/onci.24850
PMCID: PMC3782010  PMID: 24073369
GM-CSF; IFN; IL-2; TGFβ; TNFα; chemokines
15.  Trial Watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(5):e24238.
Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) represents a prominent form of immunotherapy against malignant diseases. ACT is conceptually distinct from dendritic cell-based approaches (which de facto constitute cellular vaccines) and allogeneic transplantation (which can be employed for the therapy of hematopoietic tumors) as it involves the isolation of autologous lymphocytes exhibiting antitumor activity, their expansion/activation ex vivo and their reintroduction into the patient. Re-infusion is most often performed in the context of lymphodepleting regimens (to minimize immunosuppression by host cells) and combined with immunostimulatory interventions, such as the administration of Toll-like receptor agonists. Autologous cells that are suitable for ACT protocols can be isolated from tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes or generated by engineering their circulating counterparts for the expression of transgenic tumor-specific T-cell receptors. Importantly, lymphocytes can be genetically modified prior to re-infusion for increasing their persistence in vivo, boosting antitumor responses and minimizing side effects. Moreover, recent data indicate that exhausted antitumor T lymphocytes may be rejuvenated in vitro by exposing them to specific cytokine cocktails, a strategy that might considerably improve the clinical success of ACT. Following up the Trial Watch that we published on this topic in the third issue of OncoImmunology (May 2012), here we summarize the latest developments in ACT-related research, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 months and clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the antineoplastic profile of this form of cellular immunotherapy.
doi:10.4161/onci.24238
PMCID: PMC3667909  PMID: 23762803
chimeric antigen receptor; cyclophosphamide; FOXP3+ regulatory T cells; lymphodepletion; T-cell receptor; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes
16.  Tumor necrosis factor is dispensable for the success of immunogenic anticancer chemotherapy 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(6):e24786.
The antineoplastic effects of anthracyclines have been shown to rely, at least in part, on a local immune response that involves dendritic cells (DCs) and several distinct subsets of T lymphocytes. Here, we show that the administration of anthracyclines to mice bearing established neoplasms stimulates the intratumoral secretion of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα). However, blocking the TNFα/TNF receptor (TNFR) system by three different strategies—namely, (1) neutralizing antibodies, (2) etanercept, a recombinant protein in which TNFR is fused to the constant domain of an IgG1 molecule, and (3) gene knockout—failed to negatively affect the therapeutic efficacy of anthracyclines in three distinct tumor models. In particular, TNFα-blocking strategies did not influence the antineoplastic effects of doxorubicin (a prototypic anthracycline) against MCA205 fibrosarcomas growing in C57BL/6 mice, F244 sarcomas developing in 129/Sv hosts and H2N100 mammary carcinomas arising in BALB/c mice. These findings imply that, in contrast to other cytokines (such as interleukin-1β, interleukin-17 and interferon γ), TNFα is not required for anthracyclines to elicit therapeutic anticancer immune responses.
doi:10.4161/onci.24786
PMCID: PMC3716758  PMID: 23894723
T cells; apoptosis; calreticulin; dendritic cell; immunogenic cell death; interferon γ
17.  ATP-dependent recruitment, survival and differentiation of dendritic cell precursors in the tumor bed after anticancer chemotherapy 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(6):e24568.
Tumor cells succumb to chemotherapy while releasing ATP. We have found that extracellular ATP attracts dendritic cell (DC) precursors into the tumor bed, facilitates their permanence in the proximity of dying cells and promotes their differentiation into mature DCs endowed with the capacity of presenting tumor-associated antigens.
doi:10.4161/onci.24568
PMCID: PMC3716753  PMID: 23894718
apoptosis; autophagy; calreticulin; CD39; doxorubicin; immunogenic cell death
18.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(6):e24612.
Oncolytic virotherapy is emerging as a promising approach for the treatment of several neoplasms. The term “oncolytic viruses” is generally employed to indicate naturally occurring or genetically engineered attenuated viral particles that cause the demise of malignant cells while sparing their non-transformed counterparts. From a conceptual standpoint, oncolytic viruses differ from so-called “oncotropic viruses” in that only the former are able to kill cancer cells, even though both display a preferential tropism for malignant tissues. Of note, such a specificity can originate at several different steps of the viral cycle, including the entry of virions (transductional specificity) as well as their intracellular survival and replication (post-transcriptional and transcriptional specificity). During the past two decades, a large array of replication-competent and replication-incompetent oncolytic viruses has been developed and engineered to express gene products that would specifically promote the death of infected (cancer) cells. However, contrarily to long-standing beliefs, the antineoplastic activity of oncolytic viruses is not a mere consequence of the cytopathic effect, i.e., the lethal outcome of an intense, productive viral infection, but rather involves the elicitation of an antitumor immune response. In line with this notion, oncolytic viruses genetically modified to drive the local production of immunostimulatory cytokines exert more robust therapeutic effects than their non-engineered counterparts. Moreover, the efficacy of oncolytic virotherapy is significantly improved by some extent of initial immunosuppression (facilitating viral replication and spread) followed by the administration of immunostimulatory molecules (boosting antitumor immune responses). In this Trial Watch, we will discuss the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating the safety and antineoplastic potential of oncolytic virotherapy.
doi:10.4161/onci.24612
PMCID: PMC3716755  PMID: 23894720
GM-CSF; HSV; immunotherapy; JX594; reolysin; talimogene laherparepvec
19.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(4):e23803.
The foundation of modern vaccinology dates back to the 1790s, when the English physician Edward Jenner uncovered the tremendous medical potential of prophylactic vaccination. Jenner’s work ignited a wave of nationwide vaccination campaigns abating the incidence of multiple life-threatening infectious diseases and culminating with the eradication of natural smallpox virus, which was definitively certified by the WHO in 1980. The possibility of using vaccines against cancer was first proposed at the end of the 19th century by Paul Ehrlich and William Coley. However, it was not until the 1990s that such a hypothesis began to be intensively investigated, following the realization that the immune system is not completely unresponsive to tumors and that neoplastic cells express immunogenic tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). Nowadays, anticancer vaccines are rapidly moving from the bench to the bedside, and a few prophylactic and therapeutic preparations have already been approved by FDA for use in humans. In this setting, one interesting approach is constituted by DNA vaccines, i.e., TAA-encoding circularized DNA constructs, often of bacterial origin, that are delivered to patients as such or by means of specific vectors, including (but not limited to) liposomal preparations, nanoparticles, bacteria and viruses. The administration of DNA vaccines is most often performed via the intramuscular or subcutaneous route and is expected to cause (1) the endogenous synthesis of the TAA by myocytes and/or resident antigen-presenting cells; (2) the presentation of TAA-derived peptides on the cell surface, in association with MHC class I molecules; and (3) the activation of potentially therapeutic tumor-specific immune responses. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating DNA vaccines as therapeutic interventions against cancer.
doi:10.4161/onci.23803
PMCID: PMC3654598  PMID: 23734328
cross-presentation; dendritic cells; electroporation; mucosal immunity; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Salmonella typhimurium
20.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(3):e23510.
It is now clear that the immune system plays a critical role not only during oncogenesis and tumor progression, but also as established neoplastic lesions respond to therapy. Selected cytotoxic chemicals can indeed elicit immunogenic cell death, a functionally peculiar type of apoptosis that stimulates tumor-specific cognate immune responses. Such immunogenic chemotherapeutics include cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin and oxaliplatin (which are approved by FDA for the treatment of various hematological and solid malignancies), mitoxantrone (which is currently employed both as an anticancer agent and against multiple sclerosis) and patupilone (a microtubular poison in clinical development). One year ago, in the second issue of OncoImmunology, we discussed the scientific rationale behind immunogenic chemotherapy and reviewed the status of recent clinical trials investigating the off-label use of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, oxaliplatin and mitoxantrone in cancer patients. Here, we summarize the latest developments in this area of clinical research, covering both high-impact studies that have been published during the last 13 months and clinical trials that have been initiated in the same period to assess the antineoplastic profile of immunogenic chemotherapeutics.
doi:10.4161/onci.23510
PMCID: PMC3655739  PMID: 23687621
autophagy; ATP; calreticulin; dendritic cells; epothilone B; HMGB1
21.  Analysis of NKp30/NCR3 isoforms in untreated HIV-1-infected patients from the ANRS SEROCO cohort 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(3):e23472.
Natural killer (NK) cells play a prominent role at the intersection between innate and cognate immunity, thus influencing the development of multiple pathological conditions including HIV-1-induced AIDS. Not only NK cells directly kill HIV-1-infected cells, but also control the maturation and/or elimination of dendritic cells (DCs). These functions are regulated by the delicate balance between activating and inhibiting receptors expressed at the NK-cell surface. Among the former, NKp30 has raised significant interest since the alternative splicing of its intracellular domain leads to differential effector functions, dictating the prognosis of patients bearing gastrointestinal sarcoma, and B7-H6 has recently been identified as its main ligand. Since NKp30 is downregulated in CD56-/CD16+ NK cells expanded in viremic, chronically infected HIV-1+ patients, we decided to investigate the predictive value of NKp30 splice variants for spontaneous disease progression in 89 therapy-naïve HIV-1-infected individuals enrolled in an historical cohort of patients followed since diagnosis (ANRS SEROCO cohort). We found no difference in the representation of NK-cell subsets (CD56bright, CD56dim, CD56neg) in HIV-1-infected patients as compared with healthy subjects. NKp30 downregulation was detected in CD56dim and CD56neg NK-cell subsets, yet this did not convey any prognostic value. None of the NKp30 isoforms did affect disease progression, as measured in terms of time-to-loss of circulating CD4+ T cells, time-to-AIDS-defining events and overall survival. NKp30 isoforms do not seem to play a major role in the outcome of HIV-1 infection, but the heterogeneity of the immuno-virological status of patients at enrollment could have to be taken into account.
doi:10.4161/onci.23472
PMCID: PMC3661172  PMID: 23802087
HIV-1; immunosurveillance; natural course of infection; NK; NKp30 isoforms
22.  Phase I clinical trial combining imatinib mesylate and IL-2 in refractory cancer patients 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(2):e23079.
Imatinib mesylate (IM) is a small molecule inhibitor of protein tyrosine kinases. In addition to its direct effect on malignant cells, it has been suggested IM may activate of natural killer (NK) cells, hence exerting immunomodulatory functions. In preclinical settings, improved antitumor responses have been observed when IM and interleukin-2 (IL-2), a cytokine that enhances NK cells functions, were combined. The goals of this study were to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of IL-2 combined with IM at a constant dose of 400 mg, the pharmacokinetics of IM and IL-2, as well as toxicity and clinical efficacy of this immunotherapeutic regimen in patients affected by advanced tumors. The treatment consisted in 50 mg/day cyclophosphamide from 21 d before the initiation of IM throughout the first IM cycle (from D-21 to D14), 400 mg/day IM for 14 d (D1 to D14) combined with escalating doses of IL-2 (3, 6, 9 and 12 MIU/day) from days 10 to 14. This treatment was administered at three week intervals to 17 patients. Common side effects of the combination were mild to moderate, including fever, chills, fatigue, nausea and hepatic enzyme elevation. IL-2 dose level II, 6 MIU/day, was determined as the MTD with the following dose-limiting toxicities: systemic capillary leak syndrome, fatigue and anorexia. Pharmacokinetic studies revealed that the area under the curve and the maximum concentration of IM and its main metabolite CGP74588 increased significantly when IM was concomitantly administered with IL-2. In contrast, IM did not modulate IL-2 pharmacokinetics. No objective responses were observed. The best response obtained was stable disease in 8/17 (median duration: 12 weeks). Finally, IL-2 augmented the impregnation of IM and its metabolite. The combination of IM (400 mg/day) and IL-2 (6 MIU/day) in tumors that express IM targets warrants further investigation.
doi:10.4161/onci.23079
PMCID: PMC3601177  PMID: 23525192
cancer; imatinib mesylate; interleukin-2; maximum tolerate dose; pharmacokinetics
23.  Phase I clinical trial combining imatinib mesylate and IL-2 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(2):e23080.
We performed a Phase I clinical trial from October 2007 to October 2009, enrolling patients affected by refractory solid tumors, to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of interleukin (IL)-2 combined with low dose cyclophosphamide (CTX) and imatinib mesylate (IM). In a companion paper published in this issue of OncoImmunology, we show that the MTD of IL-2 is 6 MIU/day for 5 consecutive days, and that IL-2 increases the impregnation of both IM and of its main metabolite, CGP74588. Among the secondary objectives, we wanted to determine immunological markers that might be associated with progression-free survival (PFS) and/or overall survival (OS). The combination therapy markedly reduced the absolute counts of B, CD4+ T and CD8+ T cells in a manner that was proportional to IL-2 dose. There was a slight (less than 2-fold) increase in the proportion of regulatory T cells (Tregs) among CD4+ T cells in response to IM plus IL-2. The natural killer (NK)-cell compartment was activated, exhibiting a significant upregulation of HLA-DR, tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and CD56. The abundance of HLA-DR+ NK cells after one course of combination therapy positively correlated with both PFS and OS. The IL-2-induced rise of the CD4+:CD8+ T-cell ratio calculated after the first cycle of treatment was also positively associated with OS. Overall, the combination of IM and IL-2 promoted the rapid expansion of HLA-DR+ NK cells and increased the CD4+:CD8+ T-cell ratio, both being associated with clinical benefits. This combinatorial regimen warrants further investigation in Phase II clinical trials, possibly in patients affected by gastrointestinal stromal tumors, a setting in which T and NK cells may play an important therapeutic role.
doi:10.4161/onci.23080
PMCID: PMC3601178  PMID: 23525357
NK cells; cancer; imatinib mesylate; innate immunity; interleukin-2; melanoma; regulatory T cells
24.  Trial watch 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(2):e23082.
Cardiac glycosides (CGs) are natural compounds sharing the ability to operate as potent inhibitors of the plasma membrane Na+/K+-ATPase, hence promoting—via an indirect mechanism—the intracellular accumulation of Ca2+ ions. In cardiomyocytes, increased intracellular Ca2+ concentrations exert prominent positive inotropic effects, that is, they increase myocardial contractility. Owing to this feature, two CGs, namely digoxin and digitoxin, have extensively been used in the past for the treatment of several cardiac conditions, including distinct types of arrhythmia as well as contractility disorders. Nowadays, digoxin is approved by the FDA and indicated for the treatment of congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter with rapid ventricular response, whereas the use of digitoxin has been discontinued in several Western countries. Recently, CGs have been suggested to exert potent antineoplastic effects, notably as they appear to increase the immunogenicity of dying cancer cells. In this Trial Watch, we summarize the mechanisms that underpin the unsuspected anticancer potential of CGs and discuss the progress of clinical studies that have evaluated/are evaluating the safety and efficacy of CGs for oncological indications.
doi:10.4161/onci.23082
PMCID: PMC3601180  PMID: 23525565
breast carcinoma; Digitalis purpurea; estrogen receptor; immunogenic cell death; ouabain; phytoestrogens
25.  An anticancer therapy-elicited immunosurveillance system that eliminates tetraploid cells 
Oncoimmunology  2013;2(1):e22409.
One of the driving forces of oncogenesis is tetraploidy, a duplication of the DNA content that, upon asymmetric cell division or progressive chromosome loss, can originate aneuploidy. Recent findings from our group indicate the existence of an immunosurveillance system that eliminates tetraploid cancer cells. We surmise that tetraploidy-inducing chemotherapeutic agents may elicit potent anticancer responses by re-activating this immunosurveillance system.
doi:10.4161/onci.22409
PMCID: PMC3583917  PMID: 23482968
breast carcinoma; calreticulin; HMGB1; hyperploidy; immunogenic cell death; mitotic catastrophe

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