Intratumorally injected pro-inflammatory allogeneic dendritic cells as immune enhancers: a first-in-human study in unfavourable risk patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma

Accumulating pre-clinical data indicate that the efficient induction of antigen-specific cytotoxic CD8+ T cells characterizing viral infections is caused by cross-priming where initially infected DCs produce an unique set of inflammatory factors that recruit and activate non-infected bystander DCs. Our DC-based immunotherapy concept is guided by such bystander view and accordingly, we have developed a cellular adjuvant consisting of pre-activated allogeneic DCs producing high levels of DC-recruiting and DC-activating factors. This concept doesn't require MHC-compatibility between injected cells and the patient and therefore introduces the possibility of using pre-produced and freeze-stored DCs from healthy blood donors as an off- the-shelf immune enhancer. The use of MHC-incompatible allogeneic DCs will further induce a local rejection process at the injection site that is expected to further enhance recruitment and maturation of endogenous bystander DCs.

Twelve intermediate and poor risk patients with newly diagnosed metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) where included in a phase I/II study. Pro-inflammatory allogeneic DCs were produced from a leukapheresis product collected from one healthy blood donor and subsequently deep-frozen. A dose of 5-20 × 10(6) DCs (INTUVAX) was injected into the renal tumor twice with 2 weeks interval before planned nephrectomy and subsequent standard of care.

No INTUVAX-related severe adverse events were observed. A massive infiltration of CD8+ T cells was found in 5 out of 12 removed kidney tumors. No objective tumor response was observed and 6 out of 11 evaluable patients have subsequently received additional treatment with standard tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). Three of these 6 patients experienced an objective tumor response including one sunitinib-treated patient who responded with a complete and durable regression of 4 brain metastases. Median overall survival (mOS) is still not reached (currently 42.5 months) but has already passed historical mOS in patients with unfavourable risk mRCC on standard TKI therapy.

Our findings indicate that intratumoral administration of proinflammatory allogeneic DCs induces an anti-tumor immune response that may prolong survival in unfavourable risk mRCC-patients given subsequent standard of care. A randomized, multi-center, phase II mRCC trial (MERECA) with INTUVAX in conjuction with sunitinib has been initiated.

Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01525017.

Journal for immunotherapy of cancer. 2017 Jun 20*** epublish ***

Anna Laurell, Maria Lönnemark, Einar Brekkan, Anders Magnusson, Anna Tolf, Anna Carin Wallgren, Bengt Andersson, Lars Adamson, Rolf Kiessling, Alex Karlsson-Parra

Department of Oncology, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden., Department of Surgical Sciences, Radiology, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden., Department of Surgical Sciences, Urology, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden., Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden., Department of Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden., Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden., Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.