Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
Background: Immune-based therapy for metastatic breast cancer has had limited success, particularly in molecular subtypes with low somatic mutations rates. Strategies to augment T-cell infiltration of tumors include vaccines targeting established oncogenic drivers such as the genomic amplification of HER2. We constructed a vaccine based on a novel alphaviral vector encoding a portion of HER2 (VRP-HER2).Methods: In preclinical studies, mice were immunized with VRP-HER2 before or after implantation of hHER2+ tumor cells and HER2-specific immune responses and antitumor function were evaluated. We tested VRP-HER2 in a phase I clinical trial where subjects with advanced HER2-overexpressing malignancies in cohort 1 received VRP-HER2 every 2 weeks for a total of 3 doses. In cohort 2, subjects received the same schedule concurrently with a HER2-targeted therapy.Results: Vaccination in preclinical models with VRP-HER2 induced HER2-specific T cells and antibodies while inhibiting tumor growth. VRP-HER2 was well tolerated in patients and vaccination induced HER2-specific T cells and antibodies. Although a phase I study, there was 1 partial response and 2 patients with continued stable disease. Median OS was 50.2 months in cohort 1 (n = 4) and 32.7 months in cohort 2 (n = 18). Perforin expression by memory CD8 T cells post-vaccination significantly correlated with improved PFS.Conclusions: VRP-HER2 increased HER2-specific memory CD8 T cells and had antitumor effects in preclinical and clinical studies. The expansion of HER2-specific memory CD8 T cells in vaccinated patients was significantly correlated with increased PFS. Subsequent studies will seek to enhance T-cell activity by combining with anti-PD-1.