Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
Vaccines prevent human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancer but, although these tumors express foreign, viral antigens (E6 and E7 proteins), they have little benefit in established malignancies, likely due to negative environmental cues that block tumor recognition and induce T-cell anergy in vivo. We postulated that we could identify mechanisms by which ex vivo stimulation of T cells could reactivate and expand tumor-directed T-cell lines from HPV cancer patients for subsequent adoptive immunotherapy. A total of 68 patients with HPV-associated cancers were studied. Peripheral blood T cells were stimulated with monocyte-derived dendritic cells loaded with pepmixes [peptide libraries of 15-mers overlapping by 11 amino acids (aa)] spanning E6/E7, in the presence or absence of specific accessory cytokines. The resulting T-cell lines were further expanded with pepmix-loaded activated B-cell blasts. Interferon-γ release and cytotoxic responses to E6/E7 were assessed. We successfully reactivated and expanded (>1200-fold) E6-specific/E7-specific T cells from 8/16 cervical and 33/52 oropharyngeal cancer patients. The presence of the cytokines interleukin (IL)-6, IL-7, IL-12, and IL-15 is critical for this process. These T-cell lines possess the desirable characteristics of polyclonality, multiple T-cell subset representation (including the memory compartment) and a TH1 bias, and may eliminate E6/E7 targets. In conclusion, we have shown it is possible to robustly generate HPV16 E6/E7-directed T-cell lines from patients with HPV16-associated cancers. Because our technique is scalable and good-manufacturing procedures-compliant, these lines could be used for adoptive cellular immunotherapy of patients with HPV16 cancers.