Dendritic cells: Controllers of the immune system and a new promise for immunotherapy
Dendritic cells (DCs) can be utilized either as vectors or as targets for therapy. Patients with metastatic melanoma received CD34-DC vaccine that contains Langerhans' cells and interstitial DCs. DCs were pulsed with MART1, tyrosinase, MAGE3, gp100 and Flu-MP peptides, and KLH. DCs induced an immune response to control antigens in 16/18 patients. An enhanced immune response to 1 or more melanoma antigens (MelAgs) was seen in these 16 patients. The two patients failing to respond experienced rapid tumour progression. Six out of seven patients with immunity to two or fewer MelAgs had progressive disease 10 weeks after study entry, in contrast to tumour progression in only 1/10 patients with immunity to > two MelAgs. Since tumour immunotherapy targets autologous antigens we can learn from systemic autoimmunity such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). As opposed to normal monocytes, SLE monocytes induce proliferation of allogeneic CD4+ T cells. SLE sera induce monocyte differentiation towards DCs in an IFNalpha-dependent mechanism. Spiking autologous serum with IFNalpha reproduces DC differentiation. 50% of SLE patients have high serum levels of IFNalpha, which could explain T/B lymphopenia. Yet, plasmacytoid DCs, a major IFNalpha source, are 80% decreased. pDCs and IFNalpha may play a role in SLE pathogenesis and therapy.