Previous studies have shown that tumor endothelial markers (TEMs 1-9) are up modulated in immunosuppressive, pro-angiogenic dendritic cells (DCs) found in tumor microenvironments. We recently reported that monocyte-derived DCs used for vaccination trials may accumulate high levels of TEM8 gene transcripts. Here, we investigate whether TEM8 expression in DC preparations represents a specific tumor-associated change of potential clinical relevance. TEM8 expression at the mRNA and protein level was evaluated by quantitative real-time RT-PCR and cytofluorimetric analysis in human clinical grade DCs utilized for the therapeutic vaccination of 17 advanced cancer patients (13 melanoma and 4 renal cell carcinoma). The analyses revealed that DCs from patients markedly differ in their ability to up-modulate TEM8. Indeed, mDCs from eight non-progressing patients [median overall survival (OS) = 32 months, all positive to the delayed-type hypersensitivity test (DTH)], had similar TEM8 mRNA expression levels [mDCs vs. immature iDCs; mean fold increase (mfi) = 1.97] to those found in healthy donors (mfi = 2.7). Conversely, mDCs from nine progressing patients (OS < 5 months, all but one with negative DTH) showed an increase in TEM8 mRNA levels (mfi = 12.88, p = 0.0018). The present observations suggest that TEM8 expression levels in DC-based therapeutic vaccines would allow the selection of a subgroup of patients who are most likely to benefit from therapeutic vaccination.
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