Gebhardt C, Sevko A, Jiang H, Lichtenberger R, Reith M, Tarnanidis K, Holland-Letz, T., Umansky L, Beckhove P, Sucker A, Schadendorf D, Utikal J, Umansky V. Myeloid Cells and Related Chronic Inflammatory Factors as Novel Predictive Markers in Melanoma Treatment with Ipilimumab. Clin. Cancer Res., 2015, DOI:10.158/1078-0432.CCR-15-0676.



Immunotherapy with ipilimumab improves the survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. Because only around 20% of patients experience long-term benefit, reliable markers are needed to predict a clinical response. Therefore, we sought to determine if some myeloid cells and related inflammatory mediators could serve as predictive factors for the patients' response to ipilimumab.


We performed an analysis of myeloid cells in the peripheral blood of 59 stage IV melanoma patients before the treatment and at different time points upon the therapy using a clinical laboratory analysis and multicolor flow cytometry. In addition, the production of related inflammatory factors was evaluated by ELISA or Bio-Plex assays.


An early increase in eosinophil count during the treatment with ipilimumab was associated with an improved clinical response. In contrast, elevated amounts of monocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells (moMDSC), neutrophils, and monocytes were found in nonresponders (n = 36) as compared with basal levels and with responding patients (n = 23). Moreover, in nonresponders, moMDSCs produced significantly more nitric oxide, and granulocytic MDSCs expressed higher levels of PD-L1 than these parameters at baseline and in responders, suggesting their enhanced immunosuppressive capacity. Upon the first ipilimumab infusion, nonresponders displayed elevated serum concentrations of S100A8/A9 and HMGB1 that attract and activate MDSCs.


These findings highlight additional mechanisms of ipilimumab effects and suggest levels of eosinophils, MDSCs, as well as related inflammatory factors S100A8/A9 and HMGB1 as novel complex predictive markers for patients who may benefit from the ipilimumab therapy. Clin Cancer Res; 21(24); 5453-9. ©2015 AACR.

Schneider T, Sevko A, Heussel CP, Umansky L, Beckhove P, Dienemann H, Safi S, Utikal J, Hoffmann H, Umansky V. Serum inflammatory factors and circulating immunosuppressive cells are predictive markers for efficacy of radiofrequency ablation in non-small cell lung cancer. Clin Exp Immunol. 2015, 180:467-474.


In recent years, percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has been developed as a new tool in the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in non-surgical patients. There is growing evidence that RFA-mediated necrosis can modulate host immune responses. Here we analysed serum inflammatory factors as well as immunosuppressive cells in the peripheral blood to discover possible prognostic indicators. Peripheral blood and serum samples were collected before RFA and within 3 months after the treatment in a total of 12 patients. Inflammatory cytokines and growth factors were measured in serum by the Bio-Plex assay. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and regulatory T cells (Tregs ) were evaluated in the peripheral blood via flow cytometry. In patients developing local or lymphogenic tumour relapse (n=4), we found an early significant increase in the concentration of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α as well as chemokine (C-C motif) ligand (CCL)-2 and CCL-4 compared to patients without relapse (n=4) and healthy donors (n=5). These changes were associated with an elevated activity of circulating MDSC indicated by an increased nitric oxide (NO) production in these cells. Elevated serum levels of TNF-α, CCL-2 and CCL-4 associated with an increased NO production in circulating MDSCs might be an early indicator of the incomplete RFA and subsequently a potential tumour relapse in NSCLC.

Schmitz-Winnenthal FH, Hohmann N, Niethammer AG, Friedrich T, Lubenau H, Springer M, Breiner KM, Mikus G, Weitz J, Ulrich A, Buechler MW, Pianka F, Klaiber U, Diener M, Leowardi C, Schimmack S, Sisic L, Keller AV, Koc R, Springfeld C, Knebel P, Schmidt T, Ge Y, Bucur M, Stamova S, Podola L, Haefeli WE, Grenacher L, Beckhove P. Anti-angiogenic activity of VXM01, an oral T-cell vaccine against VEGF receptor 2, in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer: A randomized, placebo-controlled, phase 1 trial. Oncoimmunology. 2015 Mar 16;4(4):1001217. eCollection 2015 Apr.


VEGFR-2 is expressed on tumor vasculature and a target for anti-angiogenic intervention. VXM01 is a first in kind orally applied tumor vaccine based on live, attenuated Salmonella bacteria carrying an expression plasmid, encoding VEGFR-2. We here studied the safety, tolerability, T effector (Teff), T regulatory (Treg) and humoral responses to VEGFR2 and anti-angiogenic effects in advanced pancreatic cancer patients in a randomized, dose escalation phase I clinical trial. Results of the first 3 mo observation period are reported. Locally advanced or metastatic, pancreatic cancer patients were enrolled. In five escalating dose groups, 30 patients received VXM01 and 15 placebo on days 1, 3, 5, and 7. Treatment was well tolerated at all dose levels. No dose-limiting toxicities were observed. Salmonella excretion and salmonella-specific humoral immune responses occurred in the two highest dose groups. VEGFR2 specific Teff, but not Treg responses were overall increased in vaccinated patients. We furthermore observed a significant reduction of tumor perfusion after 38 d in vaccinated patients together with increased levels of serum biomarkers indicative of anti-angiogenic activity, VEGF-A, and collagen IV. Vaccine specific Teff responses significantly correlated with reductions of tumor perfusion and high levels of preexisting VEGFR2-specific Teff while those showing no antiangiogenic activity had low levels of preexisting VEGFR2 specific Teff, showed a transient early increase of VEGFR2-specific Treg and reduced levels of VEGFR2-specific Teff at later time points - pointing to the possibility that early anti-angiogenic activity might be based at least in part on specific reactivation of preexisting memory T cells.

Domschke C., Ge Y., Bernahrd I., Schott S., Keim S., Juenger S., Bucur M., Mayer L., Blumenstein M., Rom J., Heil J., Sohn C., Schneeweiss A., Beckhove P., Schetz F., Long-term survival after adoptive bone marrow T cell therapy of advanced metastasized brest cancer: follow-up analysis of clinical pilot trial. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2013 Jun;62(6):1053-60. Doi: 10.1007/s00262-013-1414-x Epub 2013 Apr 18.



The bone marrow (BM) of breast cancer patients harbors tumor-reactive memory T cells (TCs) with therapeutic potential. We recently described the immunologic effects of adoptive transfer of ex vivo restimulated tumor-reactive memory TCs from the BM of 12 metastasized breast cancer patients in a clinical phase-I study. In this trial, adoptive T cell transfer resulted in the occurrence of circulating tumor antigen-reactive type-1 TCs. We here describe the long-term clinical outcome and its correlation with tumor-specific cellular immune response in 16 metastasized breast cancer patients, including 12 included in the original study.


Sixteen metastatic breast cancer patients with preexisting tumor-reactive BM memory TCs were included into the study. The study protocol involved one transfusion of TCs which were reactivated in vitro with autologous dendritic cells pulsed with lysates of MCF-7 breast cancer cells as source of tumor antigens. The presence of tumor-reactive memory TCs was analyzed by IFN-γ ELISpot assays.


Tumor-reactive memory TCs in the peripheral blood were induced de novo in 7/16 patients (44 %) after adoptive TC transfer. These patients were considered immunologic responders to the therapy. Positive adoptive immunotherapy (ADI) response was observed significantly more often in patients without bone metastases (p = 0.0051), in patients with high levels of tumor-reactive BM TCs prior to therapy (p = 0.036) and correlated significantly with the estimated numbers of transferred tumor-reactive TCs (p = 0.0021). After the treatment, we observed an overall median survival of 33.8 months in the total cohort with three patients alive at last follow-up and more than 7 years after ADI. Numbers of transferred tumor-reactive TCs correlated significantly with the overall survival of patients (p = 0.017). Patients with an immunologic response to ADI in the peripheral blood had a significantly longer median survival than nonresponders (median survival 58.6 vs. 13.6 months; p = 0.009).


In metastasized breast cancer patients, adoptive transfer of BM TCs can induce the presence of tumor antigen-reactive type-1 TCs in the peripheral blood. Patients with immunologic response after ADI show a significantly longer overall survival. Patients with bone metastases significantly less frequently respond to the treatment and, therefore, might not be optimal candidates for ADI. Although the present study does not yet prove the therapeutic effect of ADI, these findings shed light on the relation between immune response and cancer prognosis and suggest that transfer of reactivated BM TCs might bear therapeutic potential.

Wiskemann J., Hummler S., Diepold C., Keil M., Abel U., Steindorf K., Beckhove P., Ulrich C.M., Steins M. and Thomas M.; POSITIVE study: physical exercise program in non-operable lung cancer patients undergoing palliative treatment. BMC Cancer. 2016 Jul 16:499 DOI: 10.1186/s12885-016-2561-1



Patients with advanced stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or small cell lung cancer (SCLC) often experience multidimensional impairments, affecting quality of life during their course of disease. In lung cancer patients with operable disease, several studies have shown that exercise has a positive impact on quality of life and physical functioning. There is limited evidence regarding efficacy for advanced lung cancer patients undergoing palliative treatment. Therefore, the POSITIVE study aims to evaluate the benefit of a 24-week exercise intervention during palliative treatment in a randomized controlled setting.


The POSITIVE study is a randomized, controlled trial investigating the effects of a 24-week exercise intervention during palliative treatment on quality of life, physical performance and immune function in advanced, non-operable lung cancer patients. 250 patients will be recruited in the Clinic for Thoracic Diseases in Heidelberg, enrolment begun in November 2013. Main inclusion criterion is histologically confirmed NSCLC (stage IIIa, IIIb, IV) or SCLC (Limited Disease-SCLC, Extensive Disease-SCLC) not amenable to surgery. Patients are randomized into two groups. Both groups receive weekly care management phone calls (CMPCs) with the goal to assess symptoms and side effects. Additionally, one group receives a combined resistance and endurance training (3x/week). Primary endpoints are quality of life assessed by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy for patients with lung cancer (FACT-L, subcategory Physical Well-Being) and General Fatigue measured by the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI-20). Secondary endpoints are physical performance (maximal voluntary isometric contraction, 6-min walk distance), psychosocial (depression and anxiety) and immunological parameters and overall survival.


The aim of the POSITIVE trial is the evaluation of effects of a 24-week structured and guided exercise intervention during palliative treatment stages. Analysis of various outcomes (such as quality of life, physical performance, self-efficacy, psychosocial and immunological parameters) will contribute to a better understanding of the potential of exercise in advanced lung cancer patients. In contrast to other studies with advanced oncological patients the POSITIVE trial provides weekly phone calls to support patients both in the intervention and control group and to segregate the impact of physical activity on quality of life.

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