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Cytokine responsiveness of CD8+ T cells is a reproducible biomarker for the clinical efficacy of dendritic cell vaccination in glioblastoma patients



Immunotherapeutic approaches, such as dendritic cell (DC) vaccination, have emerged as promising strategies in the treatment of glioblastoma. Despite their promise, however, the absence of objective biomarkers and/or immunological monitoring techniques to assess the clinical efficacy of immunotherapy still remains a primary limitation. To address this, we sought to identify a functional biomarker for anti-tumor immune responsiveness associated with extended survival in glioblastoma patients undergoing DC vaccination.


28 patients were enrolled and treated in two different Phase 1 DC vaccination clinical trials at UCLA. To assess the anti-tumor immune response elicited by therapy, we studied the functional responsiveness of pre- and post-vaccination peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) to the immunostimulatory cytokines interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) in 21 of these patients for whom we had adequate material. Immune responsiveness was quantified by measuring downstream phosphorylation events of the transcription factors, STAT-1 and STAT-5, via phospho-specific flow cytometry.


DC vaccination induced a significant decrease in the half-maximal concentration (EC-50) of IL-2 required to upregulate pSTAT-5 specifically in CD3(+)CD8(+) T lymphocytes (p < 0.045). Extended survival was also associated with an increased per cell phosphorylation of STAT-5 in cytotoxic T-cells following IL-2 stimulation when the median post/pre pSTAT-5 ratio was used to dichotomize the patients (p = 0.0015, log-rank survival; hazard ratio = 0.1834, p = 0.018). Patients whose survival was longer than two years had a significantly greater pSTAT-5 ratio (p = 0.015), but, contrary to our expectations, a significantly lower pSTAT-1 ratio (p = 0.038).


Our results suggest that monitoring the pSTAT signaling changes in PBL may provide a functional immune monitoring measure predictive of clinical efficacy in DC-vaccinated patients.

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