Research Papers:

Immunological targeting of tumor cells undergoing an epithelial-mesenchymal transition via a recombinant brachyury-yeast vaccine

Duane H. Hamilton, Mary T. Litzinger, Alessandra Jales, Bruce Huang, Romaine I. Fernando, James W. Hodge, Andressa Ardiani, David Apelian, Jeffrey Schlom and Claudia Palena _

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Oncotarget. 2013; 4:1777-1790. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1295

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Duane H. Hamilton1,*, Mary T. Litzinger1,*, Alessandra Jales1, Bruce Huang1, Romaine I. Fernando1, James W. Hodge1, Andressa Ardiani1, David Apelian2, Jeffrey Schlom1,*, and Claudia Palena1,*

1 Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

2 GlobeImmune Inc., Louisville, Colorado

* These authors contributed equally to the work


Claudia Palena, email:

Keywords: epithelial-mesenchymal transition, brachyury, T-box transcription factor, cancer vaccine, T-cell immunotherapy

Received: August 16, 2013 Accepted: September 24, 2013 Published: September 26, 2013


The embryonic T-box transcription factor brachyury is aberrantly expressed in a range of human tumors. Previous studies have demonstrated that brachyury is a driver of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process associated with cancer progression. Brachyury expression in human tumor cells enhances tumor invasiveness in vitro and metastasis in vivo, and induces resistance to various conventional therapeutics including chemotherapy and radiation. These characteristics, and the selective expression of brachyury for a range of human tumor types vs. normal adult tissues, make brachyury an attractive tumor target. Due to its intracellular localization and the “undruggable” character of transcription factors, available options to target brachyury are currently limited. Here we report on the development and characterization of an immunological platform for the efficient targeting of brachyury-positive tumors consisting of a heat-killed, recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast)–brachyury vector-based vaccine (designated as GI-6301) that expresses the full-length human brachyury protein. We demonstrate that human dendritic cells treated with recombinant yeast-brachyury can activate and expand brachyury-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in vitro that, in turn, can effectively lyse human tumor cells expressing the brachyury protein. Vaccination of mice with recombinant yeast-brachyury is also shown here to elicit brachyury-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, and to induce anti-tumor immunity in the absence of toxicity. Based on these results, a Phase I clinical trial of GI-6301 is currently ongoing in patients with advanced tumors; to our knowledge, this is the first vaccine platform aimed at targeting a driver of tumor EMT that has successfully reached the clinical stage.

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