Engineering Dendritic-Cell-Based Vaccines and PD‑1 Blockade in Self-Assembled Peptide Nanofibrous Hydrogel to Amplify Antitumor T‑Cell Immunity

Dendritic cells (DCs) are increasingly used in cancer vaccines due to their ability to regulate T-cell immunity. Major limitations associated with the present DC adoptive transfer immunotherapy are low cell viability and transient duration of transplanted DCs at the vaccination site and the lack of recruitment of host DCs, leading to unsatisfactory T-cell immune response. Here, we developed a novel vaccine nodule comprising a simple physical mixture of the peptide nanofibrous hydrogel, anti-PD-1 antibodies, DCs, and tumor antigens. Upon subcutaneous injection, the vaccine nodule maintained the viability and biological function including the antigen uptake and maturation of encapsulated DCs and simultaneously recruited a number of host DCs and promoted the drainage of activated DCs to lymph nodes, resulting in enhanced proliferation of antigen-specific splenocytes and provoking potent cellular immune responses. Compared with adoptive transfer of DCs and subcutaneous administration of antigen vaccine, such a vaccine nodule shows superior antitumor immunotherapy efficiency in both prophylactic and therapeutic tumor models including delayed tumor growth and prolonged mice survival due to effective stimulation of antitumor T-cell immunity and increased infiltration of activated CD8+ effector T-cells in the tumor. Our findings provide a simple and robust vaccination strategy for DC-based vaccines and also a unique vaccine product for stimulating and enhancing T-cell immunity, holding great promise for immunotherapy against cancer and infectious diseases.