Carbohydrate vaccines in cancer: Immunogenicity of a fully synthetic globo H hexasaccharide conjugate in man
The complex carbohydrate molecule globo H hexasaccharide has been synthesized, conjugated to keyhole limpet hemocyanin, and administered with the immunologic adjuvant QS-21 as a vaccine for patients with prostate cancer who have relapsed after primary therapies such as radiation or surgery. Globo H is one of several candidate antigens present on prostate cancer cells that can serve as targets for immune recognition and treatment strategies. The vaccine, given as five subcutaneous vaccinations over 26 weeks, has been shown to be safe and capable of inducing specific high-titer IgM antibodies against globo H. Its immunogenicity was confirmed in prostate cancer patients with a broad range of stages and tumor burdens. Observations of several patients who had evidence of disease relapse restricted to a rising biochemical marker, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), indicated that a treatment effect could occur within 3 months after completion of the vaccine therapy. This effect was manifested as a decline of the slope of the log of PSA concentration vs. time plot after treatment compared with values before treatment. Five patients continue to have stable PSA slope profiles in the absence of any radiographic evidence of disease for more than 2 years. The concept of using PSA slope profiles in assessing early treatment effects in biological therapies such as vaccines awaits further validation in phase II and III trials. The use of a variety of lesser known candidate glycoprotein and carbohydrate antigens in prostate cancer serves as a focus for the development of a multivalent vaccine of the treatment of relapsed prostate cancer in patients with minimal tumor burden.