Pre-existing inflammatory immune microenvironment predicts the clinical response of vulvar high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions to therapeutic HPV16 vaccination

Abdulrahman, Z., de Miranda, N., van Esch, E. M., van Steenwijk, P. J. D. V., Nijman, H. W., Welters, M. J., ... & van der Burg, S. H. (2020). Journal for immunotherapy of cancer, 8(1). doi: 10.1136/jitc-2020-000563. PMID: 32169871.

Authors: Abdulrahman, Ziena; De Miranda, Noel; Van Esch, Edith M. G.; De Vos Van Steenwijk, Peggy J.; Nijman, Hans W.; J. P. Welters, Marij; Van Poelgeest, Mariette I. E.; Van Der Burg, Sjoerd H.

Online: https://jitc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e000563

Issue: Journal for immunotherapy of cancer, 8(1).

Abstract

Background
Vulvar high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (vHSIL) is predominantly induced by high-risk human papilloma virus type 16 (HPV16). In two independent trials, therapeutic vaccination against the HPV16 E6 and E7 oncoproteins resulted in objective partial and complete responses (PRs/CRs) in half of the patients with HPV16+ vHSIL at 12-month follow-up. Here, the prevaccination and postvaccination vHSIL immune microenvironment in relation to the vaccine-induced clinical response was investigated.

Methods
Two novel seven-color multiplex immunofluorescence panels to identify T cells (CD3, CD8, Foxp3, Tim3, Tbet, PD-1, DAPI) and myeloid cells (CD14, CD33, CD68, CD163, CD11c, PD-L1, DAPI) were designed and fully optimized for formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue. 29 prevaccination and 24 postvaccination biopsies of patients with vHSIL, and 27 healthy vulva excisions, were stained, scanned with the Vectra multispectral imaging system, and automatically phenotyped and counted using inForm advanced image analysis software.

Results
Healthy vulvar tissue is strongly infiltrated by CD4 and CD8 T cells expressing Tbet and/or PD-1 and CD14+HLA-DR+ inflammatory myeloid cells. The presence of such a coordinated pre-existing proinflammatory microenvironment in HPV16+ vHSIL is associated with CR after vaccination. In partial responders, a disconnection between T cell and CD14+ myeloid cell infiltration was observed, whereas clinical non-responders displayed overall lower immune cell infiltration. Vaccination improved the coordination of local immunity, reflected by increased numbers of CD4+Tbet+ T cells and HLA-DR+CD14+ expressing myeloid cells in patients with a PR or CR, but not in patients with no response. CD8+ T cell infiltration was not increased after vaccination.

Conclusion
A prevaccination inflamed type 1 immune contexture is required for stronger vaccine-induced immune infiltration and is associated with better clinical response. Therapeutic vaccination did not overtly increase immune infiltration of cold lesions.