Research Papers:

Prediction of improved survival in patients with pancreatic cancer via IL-21 enhanced detection of mesothelin epitope-reactive T-cell responses

Qingda Meng _, Davide Valentini, Martin Rao, Zhenjiang Liu, Shanshan Xie, Ann Morgell, Ernest Dodoo, Matthias Löhr, Elena Rangelova, Marco del Chiaro, Ingemar Ernberg and Markus Maeurer

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:22451-22459. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25121

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Qingda Meng1, Davide Valentini2, Martin Rao1, Zhenjiang Liu1, Shanshan Xie1, Ann Morgell3, Ernest Dodoo1, Matthias Löhr3, Elena Rangelova3, Marco del Chiaro3, Ingemar Ernberg4 and Markus Maeurer1,2

1Division of Therapeutic Immunology (TIM), Department of Laboratory Medicine (LABMED), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2Centre for Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation (CAST), Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden

3Pancreatic Surgery Unit, Division of Surgery, Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology (CLINTEC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

4Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Correspondence to:

Markus Maeurer, email: [email protected]

Keywords: pancreatic cancer; mesothelin; interferon gamma; survival; antigen-specific response

Received: February 27, 2017    Accepted: June 19, 2017    Published: April 27, 2018


Most patients with pancreatic cancer present with extensive metastasis at diagnosis, with a 5-year survival rate of approximately 5%, despite chemotherapy and surgery. New treatment modalities are needed to improve survival. Mesothelin is a tumor-associated antigen (TAA) in patients with pancreatic cancer that could be used to gauge cellular immune responses directed against transformed cells since up to 100 percent of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells have been shown to strongly express mesothelin. A prospective, observational study was carried out in twenty-six, chemotherapy-naïve patients with resectable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Participants were between 48 and 81 years (median age: 64.5 years), 15 males and 11 females. All participants were clinically followed-up between 439 and 853 days post-surgery (n=14) or until death (n=12). Peripheral blood drawn on the day of surgery was stimulated with a mesothelin peptide pool (42 peptides, non-overlapping), individual mesothelin peptides, positive (anti-CD3 antibody, OKT3) and negative controls (medium) with or without adding IL-21. Kaplan-Meier estimators were used to gauge patients’ survival pattern in relation to mesothelin-specific IFN-γ responses. A survival benefit was linked with IFN-γ responses to peptides corresponding to mature mesothelin (p=0.018) and targeted recognition of the mesothelin601-615 epitope (MQEALSGTPCLLGPG) (p=0.006) in the presence of IL-21. Conversely, production of high levels of IFN-γ to OKT3 stimulation with IL-21 conditioning was associated with reduced survival of patients (p=0.016). Gauging anti-Mesothelin- directed immune responses will aid to identify patients i) in need of a more intensive clinical follow-up and ii) who may benefit from immunotherapeutic approaches targeting mesothelin.

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