The cancer testis antigen HCA587 is an attractive candidate for T cell-based immunotherapy because it is overexpressed in a wide spectrum of malignant tumors but not normal tissues, except testis. Several CTL epitopes derived from HCA587 have been described. Our aim was to identify helper T lymphocyte epitopes of HCA587 for the optimization of T cell-based immunotherapies against HCA587-expressing tumors. Candidate helper T lymphocyte epitopes for HCA587 were predicted using the SYFPEITHI algorithm and were tested for their ability to induce helper T lymphocyte responses by in vitro peptide vaccination of CD4(+) T lymphocytes from healthy individuals and hepatocellular carcinoma patients. Four CD4(+) T-cell epitopes for HCA587 (p43-57, p145-159, p186-200 and p249-263) were identified. Among them, the p43-57 epitope was shown to be naturally processed and presented by HCA587-expressing tumor cells as well as autologous dendritic cells pulsed with whole-protein HCA587. Notably, this epitope behaved as a promiscuous T-cell epitope as it stimulated T cells in the context of more than one HLA class II allele. Thus, p43-57 is the first HCA587-derived major histocompatibility complex class II-restricted epitope to fulfil all prerequisites for use as a peptide vaccine in patients with HCA587-expressing tumors.
HCA587 (also known as MAGE-C2) is a "cancer-testis" antigen highly expressed in a number of malignancies with unique immunological properties, making it a promising target for tumor immunotherapy. In this report, we demonstrated that HCA587 protein, when formulated with adjuvants CpG-containing oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG ODN) and ISCOM, was capable of inducing a potent cellular and humoral immune response as indicated by the presence of a large number of HCA587-specific, IFN-?-producing CD4(+) T cells and high levels of HCA587-specific antibodies. More importantly, vaccination with HCA587 conferred protection against challenge with HCA587-expressing B16 melanoma in prophylactic and therapeutic settings. In analysis of the mechanisms underlying the protective effect, we showed that the vaccination was followed by enhanced accumulation of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) with enrichment of conventional CD4(+) T cells but reduced representation of Treg cells. Further, the antitumor effect was largely abrogated in mice either depleted of CD4(+) T cells or deficient for IFN-?. These results indicate that HCA587 protein vaccine possesses evident antitumor activity in a mouse model and holds promise for treatment of human cancers.
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