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Pre-existing immune status associated with response to combination of sipuleucel-T and ipilimumab in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer



Sipuleucel-T is a US Food and Drug Administration-approved autologous cellular immunotherapy that improves survival in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). We examined whether administering ipilimumab after sipuleucel-T could modify immune and/or clinical responses to this treatment.


A total of 50 patients with mCRPC were enrolled into a clinical trial (NCT01804465, where they received ipilimumab either immediately or delayed 3 weeks following completion of sipuleucel-T treatment. Blood was collected at various timepoints of the study. Luminex assay for anti-prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) and anti-PA2024-specific serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) and ELISpot for interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production against PAP and PA2024 were used to assess antigen-specific B and T cell responses, respectively. Clinical response was defined as >30% reduction in serum prostate-specific antigen levels compared with pretreatment levels. The frequency and state of circulating immune cells were determined by mass cytometry by time-of-flight and statistical scaffold analysis.


We found the combination to be well tolerated with no unexpected adverse events occurring. The timing of ipilimumab did not significantly alter the rates of antigen-specific B and T cell responses, the primary endpoint of the clinical trial. Clinical responses were observed in 6 of 50 patients, with 3 having responses lasting longer than 3 months. The timing of ipilimumab did not significantly associate with clinical response or toxicity. The combination treatment did induce CD4 and CD8 T cell activation that was most pronounced with the immediate schedule. Lower frequencies of CTLA-4 positive circulating T cells, even prior to treatment, were associated with better clinical outcomes. Interestingly, these differences in CTLA-4 expression were associated with prior localized radiation therapy (RT) to the prostate or prostatic fossa. Prior radiation treatment was also associated with improved radiographic progression-free survival.


Combining CTLA-4 blockade with sipuleucel-T resulted in modest clinical activity. The timing of CTLA-4 blockade following sipuleucel-T did not alter antigen-specific responses. Clinical responses were associated with both lower baseline frequencies of CTLA-4 expressing T cells and a history of RT. Prior cancer therapy may therefore result in long-lasting immune changes that influence responsiveness to immunotherapy with sipuleucel-T and anti-CTLA-4.

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