Introduction: One of the most encouraging examples of targeted therapy for cancer is trastuzumab, but its success is dependent on levels of expression of its target, HER2. We have found that HER2 expression levels also have a significant impact on the efficacy of HER2-directed peptide vaccines. Analogous to HER2 in breast cancer, Folate Binding Protein (FBP) is over-expressed on ovarian and endometrial cancer cells (up to 80 - 90-fold higher) and increased FBP expression is associated with aggressive disease. As a result, multiple FBP-directed therapies are being developed. We are investigating E39 + GM-CSF, which is an HLA-A2-restricted FBP-derived peptide vaccine used to prevent recurrence in disease-free endometrial and ovarian cancer patients (pts) after standard of care (SOC), multi-modality therapy. We have shown that E39 is safe, effectively generates E39-specific immune responses, and may improve DFS when optimally dosed in a phase I/IIa trial.1 Little is known about the effects of FBP expression levels on FBP-directed therapies, including our E39 vaccine.
Purpose: Here, we report clinical outcomes of patients based on FBP expression levels from a phase I/IIa trial of the E39+GM-CSF vaccine given for the prevention of recurrence in disease-free endometrial and ovarian cancer patients.
Methods: Disease-free, HLA-A2+ pts were vaccinated (VG), while HLA-A2- pts were followed as untreated controls (CG). The VG received 6 monthly inoculations of E39+GM-CSF, including either 100, 500, or 1000mcg of peptide and 250mcg of GM-CSF. FBP expression testing was performed by immunohistochemistry and the results were graded 0-4+ based on the percentage of positively staining cells. Patient's tumors were then categorized as low expression (FBPlo) if scored 0-1+ or high expression (FBPhi) if 2-4+. The pts were monitored for evidence of clinical recurrence through the SOC follow-up by their treating oncology team. Demographics, FBP expression and disease-free survival (DFS) were analyzed using appropriate statistical tests.
Results: Thirty-eight enrolled pts underwent FBP expression testing (CG n = 20; VG n = 18). There were no clinicopathologic differences between groups (p≥0.1). Nineteen pts were found to be FBPlo (CG, n = 11; VG, n = 8) and 19 were FBPhi (CG, n = 9; VG, n = 10). Median follow up was 16.3 months. There was no significant difference in overall DFS between the CG and the VG (34.6% vs. 34.6%, p = 0.208). In FBPlo pts, there was improved DFS in the VG vs. CG (85.7% vs. 17.5%, p = 0.01) while there was no such difference in FBPhi pts (VG:13.9% vs. CG:44.4%, p = 0.83). Though groups were small, there was a dose-dependent effect on DFS; pts receiving 1000mcg (n = 4) had improved DFS compared to the <1000mcg pts (n = 4) and the CG (n = 11; 100% vs. 66.7% vs.17.5%, respectively, p = 0.03). Comparing FBPlo and FBPhi pts in the VG, the FBPlo pts had improved DFS (85.7% vs. 15.6%, p = 0.052). In the CG, FBPlo pts did worse (17.5% vs. 44.4% in FBPhi, p = 0.371).
Conclusion: This phase I/IIa trial has previously demonstrated that E39 is well-tolerated, elicits a strong, dose-dependent in vivo immune response and may improve DFS when properly dosed. This focused analysis based on FBP expression level revealed a DFS benefit in FBPlo, but not FBPhi, endometrial and ovarian cancer pts treated with E39. This may be due to immunotolerance from significantly higher endogenous exposure to the FBP antigen. This is concordant with findings in our trials of HER2-directed peptide vaccines in breast cancer pts. These findings warrant further study as they may have important implications regarding the target population for future E39 peptide vaccine trials.
1. Jackson DO, et al. Interim analysis of a phase I/IIa trial assessing E39+GM-CSF, a folate binding protein vaccine, to prevent recurrence in ovarian and endometrial cancer patients. In Press.
Citation Format: Kaitlin M. Peace, Diane F. Hale, Timothy J. Vreeland, Doreen O. Jackson, Julia M. Greene, John S. Berry, IV, Alfred F. Trappey, Garth S. Herbert, Guy T. Clifton, Mark O. Hardin, Kathleen M. Darcy, Chad A. Hamilton, G. Larry Maxwell, George E. Peoples. Improved disease-free survival in endometrial and ovarian cancer patients with low folate binding protein expression after treatment with the E39 peptide vaccine in a Phase I/IIa trial [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Second CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; 2016 Sept 25-28; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2016;4(11 Suppl):Abstract nr B007.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.