This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of and immune response to Wilms tumor gene 1 (WT1) peptide-pulsed dendritic cell vaccination combined with gemcitabine (DCGEM) as a first-line therapy among patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Ten HLA-A*2402 patients were treated with WT1 peptide-pulsed DC vaccination (1 × 107 cells) on days 8 and 22 and gemcitabine (1000 mg/m2) on days 1, 8 and 15. Induction of a WT1-specific immune response was evaluated using the delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) skin test, interferon-γ enzyme-linked immunospot and HLA tetramer assays, along with assays for various immunological factors. DCGEM was well-tolerated, and the relative dose intensity of gemcitabine was 87%. Disease control associated with a low neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio was observed in all three patients with DTH positivity; it was also correlated with a low percentage of granulocytic myeloid derived suppressor cells in the pretreatment peripheral blood (P = 0.017). Patients with liver metastases and high levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-8 (IL-8) showed poor survival even though a WT1-specific immune response was induced in them. WT1 peptide-pulsed DCGEM is feasible and effective for inducing anti-tumor T-cell responses. Our results support future investigations for pancreatic cancer patients with non-liver metastases and favorable immunological conditions. This trial was registered with the University hospital Medical Information Network (UMIN) Clinical Trials Registry (http://www.umin.ac.jp/ctr/ number: UMIN-000004855).
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