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Personalized neoantigen vaccine and pembrolizumab in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma: a phase 1/2 trial.

Nature Medicine 2024 April 8
Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitors have modest efficacy as a monotherapy in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). A personalized therapeutic cancer vaccine (PTCV) may enhance responses to PD-1 inhibitors through the induction of tumor-specific immunity. We present results from a single-arm, open-label, phase 1/2 study of a DNA plasmid PTCV (GNOS-PV02) encoding up to 40 neoantigens coadministered with plasmid-encoded interleukin-12 plus pembrolizumab in patients with advanced HCC previously treated with a multityrosine kinase inhibitor. Safety and immunogenicity were assessed as primary endpoints, and treatment efficacy and feasibility were evaluated as secondary endpoints. The most common treatment-related adverse events were injection-site reactions, observed in 15 of 36 (41.6%) patients. No dose-limiting toxicities or treatment-related grade ≥3 events were observed. The objective response rate (modified intention-to-treat) per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors 1.1 was 30.6% (11 of 36 patients), with 8.3% (3 of 36) of patients achieving a complete response. Clinical responses were associated with the number of neoantigens encoded in the vaccine. Neoantigen-specific T cell responses were confirmed in 19 of 22 (86.4%) evaluable patients by enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot assays. Multiparametric cellular profiling revealed active, proliferative and cytolytic vaccine-specific CD4+ and CD8+ effector T cells. T cell receptor β-chain (TCRβ) bulk sequencing results demonstrated vaccination-enriched T cell clone expansion and tumor infiltration. Single-cell analysis revealed posttreatment T cell clonal expansion of cytotoxic T cell phenotypes. TCR complementarity-determining region cloning of expanded T cell clones in the tumors following vaccination confirmed reactivity against vaccine-encoded neoantigens. Our results support the PTCV's mechanism of action based on the induction of antitumor T cells and show that a PTCV plus pembrolizumab has clinical activity in advanced HCC. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT04251117 .

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