Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients with unmutated immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgHV) are at risk of early disease progression compared to patients with mutated IgHV. As a preventive strategy, we treated 19 previously untreated CLL patients with unmutated IgHV in a phase 1/2 trial (clinicaltrials.gov, NCT03939234) exploring the efficacy and toxicity of a therapeutic cancer vaccine containing peptides derived from programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) and ligand 2 (PD-L2), hoping to restore immunological control of the disease. According to the International Workshop on Chronic lymphocytic Leukemia (iwCLL) response criteria, no patients obtained a response; however, during follow-up, one patient had complete normalization of the peripheral lymphocyte count and remained in biochemical remission after a follow-up time of 15 months. At the end of treatment, one patient had progressed, and 17 patients had stable disease. During follow-up with a median time of 23.5 months since inclusion, seven patients had progressed, and eight patients had stable disease. The median time to first treatment (TTFT) from diagnosis was 90.3 months with a median follow-up time of 50.1 months. This apparent favorable outcome in TTFT needs to be investigated in a randomized setting, as our population may have been biased. More than 80% of patients obtained vaccine-specific immune responses, confirming the immunogenicity of the vaccine. The vaccine was generally well tolerated with only grade I-II adverse events. Although there were some signs of clinical effects, the vaccine seems to be insufficient as monotherapy in CLL, possibly due to a high tumor burden. The efficacy of the vaccine should preferably be tested in combination with novel targeted therapies or as a consolidating treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1023015
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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