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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

DNA vaccines targeting the encoded antigens to dendritic cells induce potent antitumor immunity in mice

Jun Cao1, Yiqi Jin2, Wei Li3, Bin Zhang4, Yang He1, Hongqiang Liu1, Ning Xia1, Huafeng Wei5* and Jian Yan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Interventional Oncology, Dahua Hospital, Xuhui District, Shanghai 200237, China

2 Interventional Radiology, Suzhou Municipal Hospital, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province 215002, China

3 Department of Geriatric Neurology, Brain Hospital Affiliated to Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing 210029, China

4 Department of Institution of Hepatobililary and Gastrointestinal Diseases, Second Artillary General Hospital, Beijing 100088, China

5 International Joint Cancer Institute, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200433, China

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BMC Immunology 2013, 14:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-14-39

Published: 14 August 2013



Although DNA vaccine holds a great potential for cancer immunotherapy, effective long-lasting antitumoral immunity sufficient to induce durable responses in cancer patients remains to be achieved. Considering the pivotal role of dendritic cells (DC) in the antigen processing and presentation, we prepared DC-targeting DNA vaccines by fusing tumor-associated antigen HER2/neu ectodomain to single chain antibody fragment (scFv) from NLDC-145 antibody specific for DC-restricted surface molecule DEC-205 (scFvNLDC-145), and explored its antitumoral efficacy and underlying mechanisms in mouse breast cancer models.


In vivo targeting assay demonstrated that scFvNLDC-145 specifically delivered DNA vaccine-encoded antigen to DC. Compared with untargeted HER2/neu DNA vaccines, vaccination with scFvNLDC-145-HER2/neu markedly promoted the HER2/neu-specific cellular and humoral immune responses with long-lasting immune memory, resulting in effective protection against challenge of HER2/neu-positive D2F2/E2 breast tumor while ineffective in parental HER2/neu-negative D2F2 breast tumor. More importantly, in combination with temporary depletion of regulatory T cells (Treg) by low-dose cyclophosphamide, vaccination with scFvNLDC-145-HER2/neu induced the regression of established D2F2/E2 breast tumor and significantly retarded the development of spontaneous mammary carcinomas in transgenic BALB-neuT mice.


Our findings demonstrate that DC-targeted DNA vaccines for in vivo direct delivery of tumor antigens to DC could induce potent antigen-specific cellular and humoral immune responses and, if additional combination with systemic Treg depletion, was able to elicit an impressively therapeutic antitumoral activity, providing a rationale for further development of this approach for cancer treatment.

DNA vaccine; DC-targeted; HER2/neu; Breast cancer; Cyclophosphamide