Immunodominance of poxviral-specific CTL in a human trial of recombinant-modified vaccinia Ankara.
Smith CL., Mirza F., Pasquetto V., Tscharke DC., Palmowski MJ., Dunbar PR., Sette A., Harris AL., Cerundolo V.
Many recombinant poxviral vaccines are currently in clinical trials for cancer and infectious diseases. However, these agents have failed to generate T cell responses specific for recombinant gene products at levels comparable with T cell responses associated with natural viral infections. The recent identification of vaccinia-encoded CTL epitopes, including a new epitope described in this study, allows the simultaneous comparison of CTL responses specific for poxviral and recombinant epitopes. We performed detailed kinetic analyses of CTL responses in HLA-A*0201 patients receiving repeated injections of recombinant modified vaccinia Ankara encoding a string of melanoma tumor Ag epitopes. The vaccine-driven CTL hierarchy was dominated by modified vaccinia Ankara epitope-specific responses, even in patients who had not received previous smallpox vaccination. The only recombinant epitope that was able to impact on the CTL hierarchy was the melan-A26-35 analog epitope, whereas responses specific for the weaker affinity epitope NY-ESO-1(157-165) failed to be expanded above the level detected in prevaccination samples. Our results demonstrate that immunodominant vaccinia-specific CTL responses limit the effectiveness of poxviruses in recombinant vaccination strategies and that more powerful priming strategies are required to overcome immunodominance of poxvirus-specific T cell responses.