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Preparing clinical-grade myeloid dendritic cells by electroporation-mediated transfection of in vitro amplified tumor-derived mRNA and safety testing in stage IV malignant melanoma

Svetomir N Markovic1, Allan B Dietz23, Carl W Greiner3, Mary L Maas3, Greg W Butler3, Douglas J Padley3, Peggy A Bulur2, Jacob B Allred4, Edward T Creagan5, James N Ingle5, Dennis A Gastineau13 and Stanimir Vuk-Pavlovic12*

  • * Corresponding author: Stanimir Vuk-Pavlovic

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Hematology, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

2 Stem Cell Laboratory, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

3 Human Cellular Therapy Laboratory, Division of Transfusion Medicine, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

4 Cancer Center Statistics, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

5 Department of Oncology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2006, 4:35  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-4-35

Published: 15 August 2006



Dendritic cells (DCs) have been used as vaccines in clinical trials of immunotherapy of cancer and other diseases. Nonetheless, progress towards the use of DCs in the clinic has been slow due in part to the absence of standard methods for DC preparation and exposure to disease-associated antigens. Because different ex vivo exposure methods can affect DC phenotype and function differently, we studied whether electroporation-mediated transfection (electrotransfection) of myeloid DCs with in vitro expanded RNA isolated from tumor tissue might be feasible as a standard physical method in the preparation of clinical-grade DC vaccines.


We prepared immature DCs (IDCs) from CD14+ cells isolated from leukapheresis products and extracted total RNA from freshly resected melanoma tissue. We reversely transcribed the RNA while attaching a T7 promoter to the products that we subsequently amplified by PCR. We transcribed the amplified cDNA in vitro and introduced the expanded RNA into IDCs by electroporation followed by DC maturation and cryopreservation. Isolated and expanded mRNA was analyzed for the presence of melanoma-associated tumor antigens gp100, tyrosinase or MART1. To test product safety, we injected five million DCs subcutaneously at three-week intervals for up to four injections into six patients suffering from stage IV malignant melanoma.


Three preparations contained all three transcripts, one isolate contained tyrosinase and gp100 and one contained none. Electrotransfection of DCs did not affect viability and phenotype of fresh mature DCs. However, post-thaw viability was lower (69 ± 12 percent) in comparison to non-electroporated cells (82 ± 12 percent; p = 0.001). No patient exhibited grade 3 or 4 toxicity upon DC injections.


Standardized preparation of viable clinical-grade DCs transfected with tumor-derived and in vitro amplified mRNA is feasible and their administration is safe.