First published October 29, 2019 - More info
Efficacy of dendritic cell (DC) cancer vaccines is classically thought to depend on their antigen-presenting cell (APC) activity. Studies show, however, that DC vaccine priming of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) requires the activity of endogenous DC, suggesting that exogenous DC stimulate anti-tumor immunity by transferring antigen (Ag) to endogenous DC. Such Ag transfer functions are most commonly ascribed to monocytes, implying that undifferentiated monocytes would function equally well as a vaccine modality and need not be differentiated to DC to be effective. Here, we used several murine cancer models to test the anti-tumor efficacy of undifferentiated monocytes loaded with protein or peptide Ag. Intravenously injected monocytes displayed anti-tumor activity superior to DC vaccines in several cancer models, including aggressive intracranial glioblastoma. Ag-loaded monocytes induced robust CTL responses via Ag transfer to splenic CD8+ DC in a manner independent of monocyte APC activity. Ag transfer required cell-cell contact and the formation of connexin 43-containing gap junctions between monocytes and DC. These findings demonstrate the existence of an efficient gap junction-mediated Ag transfer pathway between monocytes and CD8+ DC and suggest that administration of tumor Ag-loaded undifferentiated monocytes may serve as a simple and efficacious immunotherapy for the treatment of human cancers.