Glypican-3 (GPC3) is an onco-fetal antigen that is overexpressed in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and is only expressed in the placenta and embryonic liver among normal tissues. Previously, we identified an HLA-A2-restricted GPC3144-152 (FVGEFFTDV) peptide that can induce GPC3-reactive CTLs without inducing autoimmunity in HLA-A2 transgenic mice. In this study, we carried out a phase I clinical trial of HLA-A2-restricted GPC3144-152 peptide vaccine in 14 patients with advanced HCC. Immunological responses were analyzed by ex vivoγ-interferon enzyme-linked immunospot assay. The frequency of GPC3144-152 peptide-specific CTLs after vaccination (mean, 96; range, 5-441) was significantly larger than that before vaccination (mean, 6.5; range, 0-43) (P<0.01). An increase in the GPC3144-152 peptide-specific CTL frequency was observed in 12 (86%) of 14 patients after vaccination. Additionally, there was a significant correlation between the maximum value of GPC3144-152 peptide-specific CTLs after vaccination and the dose of the peptide injected (P=0.0166, r=0.665). Moreover, we established several GPC3144-152 peptide-specific CTL clones from PBMCs of patients vaccinated with GPC3144-152 peptide by single cell sorting using Dextramer and CD107a antibody. These CTL clones had high avidity (the recognition efficiency showing 50% cytotoxicity was 10-10 or 10-11M) and could recognize HCC cell lines expressing GPC3 in an HLA-class I-restricted manner. These results suggest that GPC3144-152 peptide vaccine can induce high avidity CTLs capable of killing HCC cells expressing GPC3. This trial was registered with University Hospital Medical Information Network number 000001395.
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