Dendritic cell–based immunotherapy does not improve outcomes for patients with refractory sarcoma, according to the results of a phase 1/2 study published in Cancer.1

Relapsed sarcomas are often unresponsive to chemotherapy, limiting treatment options in this patient population. For this study, researchers evaluated whether immunotherapy using dendritic cells, which is active in some cancers, would improve clinical outcomes for patients with refractory sarcoma.

Dendritic cells were pulsed with autologous tumor lysate before injection; 47 courses were administered to 37 enrolled patients. Thirty-five patients were assessed at follow-up. There was only 1 partial response, 6 patients had stable disease, and in 28 patients tumor progression was observed.

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The 3-year progression-free survival was only 2.9%; the 3-year overall survival rate was 42.3%. Patients with recurrent tumors had longer median survival than those with metastatic or recurrent and metastatic tumors. There were no serious adverse events associated with dendritic cell treatment.

Interferon-y (IFN-y) and IL-12 levels, which have been shown to activate T lymphocytes, were measured 1 month after dendritic cell injection. Although these serum levels were elevated post-treatment, 80% of patients still had disease progression. This outcome may, however, be due to tumor immunosuppression.

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The authors concluded that dendritic cell–immunotherapy may be effective prior to disease relapse, potentially avoiding tumor immunosuppression. Further study is warranted.


  1. Miwa S, Nishida H, Tanzawa Y, et al. Phase 1/2 study of immunotherapy with dendritic cells pulsed with autologous tumor lysate in patients with refractory bone and soft tissue sarcoma. Cancer. 2017 Feb 27. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30606 [Epub ahead of print]