Therapies for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are limited. We carried out a phase I trial of a novel autologous whole-cell tumor cell immunotherapy (FANG™), which incorporates a dual granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) expressive/bifunctional small hairpin RNA interference (bi-shRNAi) vector. The bi-shRNAi DNA targets furin, which is a proconvertase of transforming growth factors beta (TGFβ) 1 and 2. Safety, mechanism, immunoeffectiveness, and suggested benefit were previously shown [Senzer et al.: Mol Ther 2012;20:679-689; Senzer et al.: J Vaccines Vaccin 2013;4:209]. We now provide further follow-up of a subset of 8 HCC patients. FANG manufacturing was successful in 7 of 8 attempts (one failure due to insufficient cell yield). Median GM-CSF expression was 144 pg/106 cells, TGFβ1 knockdown was 100%, and TGFβ2 knockdown was 93% of the vector-transported cells. Five patients were vaccinated (1 or 2.5 × 107 cells/intradermal injection, 6-11 vaccinations). No FANG toxicity was observed. Three of these patients demonstrated evidence of an immune response to the autologous tumor cell sample. Long-term follow-up demonstrated survival of 319, 729, 784, 931+, and 1,043+ days of the FANG-treated patients. In conclusion, evidence supports further assessment of the FANG immunotherapy in HCC.

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