Open Access Open Badges Research

High efficacy of CpG-ODN, Cetuximab and Cisplatin combination for very advanced ovarian xenograft tumors

Michele Sommariva13, Michelandrea de Cesare2, Alessandra Meini13, Alessandra Cataldo13, Nadia Zaffaroni2, Elda Tagliabue3 and Andrea Balsari13*

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche per la Salute, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Mangiagalli 31, 20133, Milan, Italy

2 Molecular Pharmacology Unit, Fondazione IRCCS - Istituto Nazionale Tumori, via Amadeo 42, 20133, Milan, Italy

3 Molecular Targeting Unit, Fondazione IRCCS - Istituto Nazionale Tumori, via Amadeo 42, 20133, Milan, Italy

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2013, 11:25  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-11-25

Published: 29 January 2013



To mimic clinical treatment situations in advanced human ovarian disease, we tested the efficacy of CpG-oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG-ODN), synthetic DNA sequences recognized by Toll-like receptor 9 and able to induce innate/adaptive immune responses, in combination with other possible therapeutic reagents in ovarian carcinoma ascites-bearing athymic mice.


Mice injected i.p. with IGROV-1 ovarian cancer cells were treated at different stages of ascites progression for 4 weeks with CpG-ODN, alone or in combination with Bevacizumab, Polyinosinic:Polycytidylic acid (Poly(I):Poly(C)), Gefitinib, Cetuximab and Cisplatin. Median survival time (MST) was calculated for each group. IGROV-1 cells treated or not with Cetuximab were assayed for antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity by 51Cr-release assay, and for macrophage antibody-dependent cell-mediated phagocytosis by flow cytometry.


In mice treated when ascitic fluid began to accumulate, CpG-ODN combined with Bevacizumab, Poly(I):Poly(C) or Gefitinib did not significantly increase MST as compared with that using CpG-ODN alone, whereas MST in mice treated with CpG-ODN plus Cetuximab was significantly increased (>103 days for combination vs 62 days for CpG alone; P = 0.0008), with 4/8 mice alive at the end of the experiment. In experiments in mice showing increased abdominal volume and body weight (27.9 ± 0.8 g after vs 23 ± 1.1 g before tumor cell injection), treatment with Cisplatin in addition to CpG-ODN/Cetuximab led to significantly increased MST (105.5 days; P = 0.001), with all mice still alive at 85 days, over that using CpG-ODN/Cetuximab (66 days), Cetuximab/Cisplatin (18.5 days), Cisplatin (23 days) or saline (16 days). At a very advanced stage of disease (body weight: 31.4 ± 0.9 g), when more than half of control mice had to be sacrificed 6 days after starting treatments, the triple-combination therapy still increased MST (45 days; P = 0.0089) vs controls.


CpG-ODN combination therapies that enhance the immune response in the tumor microenvironment and concomitantly target tumor cells are highly efficacious even in experimental advanced malignancies. Although differences in the distribution of TLR9 in mice and humans and the enrichment of this receptor on innate immune cells of athymic mice must be considered, our results indicate a promising strategy to treat ovarian cancer patients with bulky ascites.

CpG-ODN; TLR9; Ovarian cancer; Ascites; Monoclonal Antibody; Cisplatin