Diminished neo-antigen response to keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) vaccines in patients after treatment with chemotherapy or hematopoietic cell transplantation

Jeffrey S. Miller, Julie Curtsinger, Melinda Berthold, Kirsten Malvey, Robin L. Bliss, Chap T. Le, Susan K. Fautsch, Arkadiusz Z. Dudek, Bruce R. Blazar, Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Relapse is the most common cause of treatment failure for advanced cancer, even those treated with autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Effective tumor-specific immunotherapy may decrease relapse, however, this will fail if the immune system is unable to respond. We developed a strategy to test immune responses with a single injection of the bona fide neo-antigen KLH. The model was first tested in 37 normal volunteers using three KLH vaccines: Intracel KLH, Biosyn KLH, and Biosyn KLH + adjuvant. Despite finding the immunogenic epitope conserved in both products, intact Intracel KLH induced a better response compared to a purified 350/390 kDA subunit of KLH contained in the Biosyn KLH product. Addition of a synthetic oil adjuvant (Montanide ISA51) restored the response to a single injection of Biosyn KLH. A quantitative readout measured by a KLH-specific cellular and humoral response with isotype switching 1 month after KLH vaccination was established. To test the integrity of the adaptive immune response in cancer patients, we vaccinated 14 patients post-HCT and 19 patients with advanced cancer with KLH vaccines that elicited a 100% response rate in normal volunteers. In marked contrast to normal subjects, both responses were significantly impaired up to 16 months after autologous HCT with an intermediate response in advanced cancer patients. KLH vaccines are safe and require only a single injection to test neo-antigen responses providing an optimal platform for definitive testing of strategies to improve diminished immune recovery after chemotherapy or post-HCT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-151
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R01 HL073794 (BRB) and the Cancer Center Support Grant (P30 CA 77598-01) and supported in part by grant M01-RR00400 from the National Cancer Institute for Research Resources.


  • Cancer
  • Cellular response
  • Hematopoietic cell transplantation
  • Humoral response
  • Immune defect
  • Immune response
  • Neo-antigen
  • Vaccines


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