Department of Biomedical Engineering , Case Western Reserve University , 10900 Euclid Avenue , Cleveland , Ohio 44106 , United States.
New cancer vaccine strategies are required to vanquish the self-tolerance and elicit robust immune responses against tumor-associated antigens and/or neoantigens. Contemporary approaches in nanomedicine center on the use of a single nanocarrier modified with multiple copies of multiple different functional domains, e.g., epitopes for vaccines. Therefore, we set out to develop a combinatorial approach toward the next-generation concept of epitope delivery: a prime-boost strategy in which the same epitope is delivered using different nanocarriers. We tested this concept in the setting of HER2 breast cancer. We synthesized HER2-based cancer vaccines using three icosahedral plant viruses as carriers and evaluated the immune response as a result of repetitive, homologous immunization using BALB/c mice. Two of the vaccines induced a Th2-predominant response and the other a Th1-predominant response. To enhance the immunogenicity of the vaccines, we developed a heterologous prime-boost strategy with each of the vaccines administered only once, yielding higher titers of HER2-specific immunoglobulins and increasing the toxicity of the antisera toward cancer cells. The prime-boost also induced a Th1-predominant response. An in vivo tumor challenge showed that the prime-boost regimen reduced tumor growth and improved survival in mice. This novel strategy to elicit robust immune responses against weakly immunogenic antigens in principle could be broadly applicable to cancers and other diseases.
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