Enhancing antimelanoma immune responses through apoptosis

Stacie R. Bianco, Juan Sun, Susan P. Fosmire, Kenneth Hance, Marcia L. Padilla, Michelle G. Ritt, David M. Getzy, Richard C. Duke, Stephen J. Withrow, Susan Lana, David T. Matthiesen, Steven W. Dow, Donald Bellgrau, Gary R. Cutter, Stuart C. Helfand, Jaime F. Modiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


We examined the feasibility of using tumor apoptosis at accessible sites to enhance antimelanoma immune responses in a model of spontaneous canine melanoma. We show that priming peripheral blood mononuclear cells with apoptotic melanoma cells significantly enhanced autologous and allogeneic lymphokine-activated killing of tumor cells. Since various pathways required for intrinsic apoptosis are often inactivated in melanoma, we used Fas ligand (FasL) overexpression to promote extrinsic apoptosis. FasL induced apoptosis in five of six cell lines. Each of the susceptible lines, but not the resistant one, expressed Fas mRNA. In addition, direct intratumoral administration of FasL DNA to tumor-bearing dogs was safe, with no adverse events reported over 7 days of observation. A reduction of tumor burden was seen in three of five dogs treated. The reduction of tumor volume was correlated with Fas expression by the tumors, although one dog with a Fas-negative tumor survived for 82 weeks after treatment. Our data show that overexpression of FasL is suitable to promote apoptosis of Fas+ melanomas, and support the notion that priming immune responder cells with apoptotic tumor cells may enhance antitumor responses. The results also suggest that intratumoral administration of FasL offers a safe route for therapeutic gene delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-736
Number of pages11
JournalCancer gene therapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the technical and nursing staffs of the Animal Cancer Center of Colorado State University and Animal Hospital Center for assistance with care and handling of dogs in this study and Drs Erin Dickerson and Valerie Fadok for critical review of the manuscript. This work was supported in part by Grant 1626 from the AKC Canine Health Foundation and Grant 98CA-36 from the Morris Animal Foundation. SRB was supported in part by a fellowship from the University of Colorado Cancer Center.


  • Apoptosis
  • Dogs
  • Fas
  • Fas ligand
  • Melanoma


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