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Open Access Research article

Cellular immunotherapy using irradiated lung cancer cell vaccine co-expressing GM-CSF and IL-18 can induce significant antitumor effects

Hongwei Tian, Gang Shi, Guoyou Yang, Junfeng Zhang, Yiming Li, Tao Du, Jianzhou Wang, Fen Xu, Lin Cheng, Xiaomei Zhang, Lei Dai, Xiaolei Chen, Shuang Zhang, Yang Yang, Dechao Yu, Yuquan Wei and Hongxin Deng*

Author Affiliations

State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, The People’s Republic of China

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-48

Published: 29 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Although the whole tumor cell vaccine can provide the best source of immunizing antigens, there is still a limitation that most tumors are not naturally immunogenic. Tumor cells genetically modified to secrete immune activating cytokines have been proved to be more immunogenic. IL-18 could augment proliferation of T cells and cytotoxicity of NK cells. GM-CSF could stimulate dendritic cells, macrophages and enhance presentation of tumor antigens. In our study, we used mouse GM-CSF combined with IL-18 to modify Lewis lung cancer LL/2, then investigated whether vaccination could suppress tumor growth and promote survival.

Methods

The Lewis lung cancer LL/2 was transfected with co-expressing mouse GM-CSF and IL-18 plasmid by cationic liposome, then irradiated with a sublethal dose X ray (100 Gy) to prepare vaccines. Mice were subcutaneously immunized with this inactivated vaccine and then inoculated with autologous LL/2 to estimate the antitumor efficacy.

Results

The studies reported here showed that LL/2 tumor cell vaccine modified by a co-expressing mouse GM-CSF and IL-18 plasmid could significantly inhibit tumor growth and increased survival of the mice bearing LL/2 tumor whether prophylactic or adoptive immunotherapy in vivo. A significant reduction of proliferation and increase of apoptosis were also observed in the tumor treated with vaccine of co-expressing GM-CSF and IL-18. The potent antitumor effect correlated with higher secretion levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-18, GM-CSF, interferon-γ in serum, the proliferation of CD4+ IFN-γ+, CD8+ IFN-γ+ T lymphocytes in spleen and the infiltration of CD4+, CD8+ T in tumor. Furthermore, the mechanism of tumor-specific immune response was further proved by 51Cr cytotoxicity assay in vitro and depletion of CD4, CD8, NK immune cell subsets in vivo. The results suggested that the antitumor mechanism was mainly depended on CD4+, CD8+ T lymphocytes.

Conclusions

These results provide a new insight into therapeutic mechanisms of IL-18 plus GM-CSF modified tumor cell vaccine and provide a potential clinical cancer immunotherapeutic agent for improved antitumor immunity.

Keywords:
Cancer immunotherapy; IL-18; GM-CSF; Cell vaccine; Apoptosis