Synthetic Cancer Vaccine Protects Mice from Tumors

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The authors of this article present a new strategy for self-adjuvanting vaccine development that has different types of covalently-linked immunostimulants as the carrier molecule.

Using Tn antigen as the model, a three-component vaccine (MPLA-Tn-KRN7000) containing the TLR4 ligand MPLA and the iNKT cell agonist KRN7000 was designed and synthesized. This expands fully synthetic self-adjuvanting vaccine studies that use a single carrier to one with two different types of carriers. The corresponding two-component conjugate vaccines Tn-MPLA, Tn-KRN7000 and Tn-CRM197 were also synthesized, as controls. The immunological evaluation found that MPLA-Tn-KRN7000 elicits robust Tn-specific and T cell-dependent immunity. The antibodies specifically recognized, bound to and exhibited complement-dependent cytotoxicity against Tn-positive cancer cells. In addition, MPLA-Tn-KRN7000 increased the survival rate and survival time of tumor-challenged mice, and surviving mice reject further tumor attacks without any additional treatment. Compared to the glycoprotein vaccine Tn-CRM197, the two-component conjugate vaccines, Tn-MPLA and Tn-KRN7000, and the physical mixture of Tn-MPLA and Tn-KRN7000, MPLA-Tn-KRN7000 showed the most effect at combating tumor cells both in vitro and in vivo. The comparison of immunological studies in wild-type and TLR4 knockout mice, along with the test of binding affinity to CD1d protein suggests that the covalently linked MPLA-KRN7000 immunostimulant induces a synergistic activation of TLR4 and iNKT cell that improves the immunogenicity of Tn.

This work demonstrates that MPLA-Tn-KRN7000 has the potential to be a vaccine candidate and provides a new direction for fully synthetic vaccine design.

Keywords: Cancer vaccine, Tn antigen, MPLA, KRN7000, Immunotherapy

Graphical Abstract: available at

A new strategy to construct self-adjuvanting antitumor vaccine was developed. The resulting three-component vaccine elicited strong humoral and cellular immune responses, and protected mice from tumor development.

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