Cancer therapy using a self-replicating RNA vaccine

Han Ying, Tal Z. Zaks, Rong Fu Wang, Kari R. Irvine, Udai S. Kammula, Francesco M. Marincola, Wolfgang W. Leitner, Nicholas P. Restifo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

267 Scopus citations


'Naked' nucleic acid vaccines are potentially useful candidates for the treatment of patients with cancer, but their clinical efficacy has yet to be demonstrated. We sought to enhance the immunogenicity of a nucleic acid vaccine by making it 'self-replicating'. We accomplished this by using a gene encoding an RNA replicase polyprotein derived from the Semliki forest virus, in combination with a model antigen. A single intramuscular injection of a self-replicating RNA immunogen elicited antigen-specific antibody and CD8+ T-cell responses at doses as low as 0.1 μg. Pre-immunization with a self- replicating RNA vector protected mice from tumor challenge, and therapeutic immunization prolonged the survival of mice with established tumors. The self-replicating RNA vectors did not mediate the production of substantially more model antigen than a conventional DNA vaccine did in vitro. However, the enhanced efficacy in vivo correlated with a caspase-dependent apoptotic death in transfected cells. This death facilitated the uptake of apoptotic cells by dendritic cells, providing a potential mechanism for enhanced immunogenicity. Naked, non-infectious, self-replicating RNA may be an excellent candidate for the development of new cancer vaccines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-827
Number of pages5
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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