Heterologous Vaccination and Checkpoint Blockade Synergize to Induce Antileukemia Immunity

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

The Journal of Immunology






The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.

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Checkpoint blockade-based immunotherapies are effective in cancers with high numbers of nonsynonymous mutations. In contrast, current paradigms suggest that such approaches will be ineffective in cancers with few nonsynonymous mutations. To examine this issue, we made use of a murine model of BCR-ABL+ B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Using a principal component analysis, we found that robust MHC class II expression, coupled with appropriate costimulation, correlated with lower leukemic burden. We next assessed whether checkpoint blockade or therapeutic vaccination could improve survival in mice with pre-established leukemia. Consistent with the low mutation load in our leukemia model, we found that checkpoint blockade alone had only modest effects on survival. In contrast, robust heterologous vaccination with a peptide derived from the BCR-ABL fusion (BAp), a key driver mutation, generated a small population of mice that survived long-term. Checkpoint blockade strongly synergized with heterologous vaccination to enhance overall survival in mice with leukemia. Enhanced survival did not correlate with numbers of BAp:I-Ab–specific T cells, but rather with increased expression of IL-10, IL-17, and granzyme B and decreased expression of programmed death 1 on these cells. Our findings demonstrate that vaccination to key driver mutations cooperates with checkpoint blockade and allows for immune control of cancers with low nonsynonymous mutation loads.