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Vaccines play increasingly important roles in cancer treatment due to their advantages of effective targeting and few side effects. Our laboratory has attempted to construct vaccines by conjugating TLR7 agonists with tumor-associated antigens. Furthermore, immunochemotherapy has recently become an appealing approach to cancer therapy. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), a commonly used chemotherapeutic agent, can reportedly potently and selectively kill tumor-associated MDSCs in vivo.
Gastric cancer vaccines were synthesized by the covalent attachment of our TLR7 agonist with the gastric cancer antigen MG7-Ag tetra-epitope, leading to T7 − ML (linear tetra-epitope) and T7 − MB (branched tetra-epitope). Cytokines induced by the vaccines in vitro were assessed by ELISA. A tumor challenge model was created by treating BALB/c mice on either a prophylactic or therapeutic vaccination schedule. 5-FU was simultaneously applied to mice in the combination treatment group. CTL and ADCC activities were determined by the LDH method, while CD3+/CD8+, CD3+/CD4+ T cells and MDSCs were evaluated by flow cytometry.
In vitro, rapid TNF-α and IL-12 inductions occurred in BMDCs treated with the vaccines. In vivo, among all the vaccines tested, T7 − MB most effectively reduced EAC tumor burdens and induced CTLs, antibodies and ADCC activity in BALB/c mice. Immunization with T7 − MB in combination with 5-FU chemotherapy reduced tumor sizes and extended long-term survival rates, mainly by improving T cell responses, including CTLs, CD3+/CD8+ and CD3+/CD4+ T cells. 5-FU also enhanced the T7 − MB efficiency by reversing immunosuppressive factors, i.e., MDSCs, which could not be validly inhibited by the vaccines alone. In addition, T7 − MB repressed tumor growth and immune tolerance when the therapeutic schedule was used, although the effects were weaker than those achieved with either T7 − MB alone or in combination with 5-FU on the prophylactic schedule.
A novel effective gastric cancer vaccine was constructed, and the importance of branched multiple antigen peptides and chemical conjugation to vaccine design were confirmed. The synergistic effects and mechanisms of T7 − MB and 5-FU were also established, observing mainly T cell activation and MDSC inhibition.