Development of a nano-adjuvant cancer vaccine and its evaluation for melanoma in combination with radiotherapy

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world and melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Although surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are still standard treatments, the discovery of the role played by the immune system in cancer has allowed the development of new treatments, called immunotherapies. The goal of these treatments is to help the immune system eradicate cancerous cells, for example by increasing the anti-tumor response of the patient. In this particular case, the treatment has to activate cytotoxic CD8+ and CD4+ helper T cells against the cancer cells. This can be done by using subunit vaccines composed of tumor antigens, adjuvants and a delivery system, which will be internalized by dendritic cells (DCs) and induce its activation followed by the migration to the lymph nodes where it will educate T cells against specific antigens. Our laboratory has developed two different delivery systems, nanoparticles (NPs) and polymersomes (PSs) that can enhance the vaccine’s immune response by efficiently entering the lymphatic system, due to their size, and drain to the lymph node. Once they reach that location, they will be internalized by DCs and induce an anti-tumor response. In this thesis, we used these two nanocarriers to create a vaccine composed of different nano-adjuvants capable of activating several toll-like receptors simultaneously and test their efficacy at inducing an anti-tumor response in melanoma. We have developed and characterized the different nano-adjuvants, PS-MPLA, PS-CL075 and NP-CpG-B, and demonstrated, in vitro, synergistic effects on DC activation when PS-MPLA + PS-CL075 and PS-MPLA + NP-CpG-B were combined. In vivo, we showed the enhanced immune response with the different nano-adjuvant combinations, but only PS-MPLA + NP-CpG-B was able to delay tumor growth in melanoma. We then tested this vaccine in combination with radiotherapy, mimicking a clinical situation. We first demonstrated an enhanced immune response when combining a high irradiation dose, 15 Gy, with the nano-adjuvant vaccine draining the tumor-draining lymph node. Moreover, the vaccination of NP-CpG-B + PS-MPLA and radiotherapy increased mice survival by 17 days compared to mice only receiving radiotherapy.   Overall, we have demonstrated that combining different nano-adjuvants, targeting the tumor-draining lymph node, with radiotherapy enhanced significantly the survival in a melanoma model. This approach is particularly promising since ionizing radiation is a standard treatment in cancer and our vaccine can be applied to a multitude of cancer since it does not contain any antigen and its composition can easily be modified.

Swartz, Melody
Hatzimanikatis, Vassily
Lausanne, EPFL

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 Record created 2018-08-29, last modified 2020-10-27

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