DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): A major challenge for developing effective therapeutic vaccines against cancer is overcoming immunological tolerance to tumor-associated antigens. As the result of tolerance, high avidity CD8 T lymphocytes, which are the effectors capable of recognizing and killing tumor cells are not induced by conventional vaccines. We have designed a novel vaccination approach that utilizes synthetic peptides representing CD8 T cell epitopes, Toll-like receptor agonists that function as a potent immunological adjuvants and immune costimulatory monoclonal antibodies. Preliminary data in a mouse model of melanoma using this vaccine, which we call TriVax (for its 3 basic components) demonstrates that this strategy is effective in inducing tumor-reactive CD8 T cells with therapeutic effectiveness. Here we propose to carry out optimization studies of TriVax to demonstrate the clinical feasibility of this approach (specific aim 1). We will perform experiments to further optimize TriVax with the aim of developing an effective vaccine against advanced tumors (specific aim 2). Lastly, we will validate the use of the TriVax immunization strategy by studying the responses of several potential CD8 T cell epitopes to determine whether the induction of high avidity CD8 T cell responses correlates with in vitro tumor recognition, with in vivo therapeutic effects against established melanomas, and with the induction of epitope spreading and autoimmunity (specific aim 3). Our goal is that the preclinical data derived from these studies will generate sufficient enthusiasm to take this approach into the clinic.
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