Murine polyomavirus (MPyV) VP1 virus-like particles (VLPs), containing a fusion protein between MPyV VP2 and the extracellular and transmembrane domain of HER-2/neu (Her2), Her2(1-683)PyVLPs, were tested for their ability to vaccinate against Her2-expressing tumors in two different in vivo models. Protection was assessed both against a lethal challenge with a BALB/c mammary carcinoma transfected with human Her2 (D2F2/E2) and against the outgrowth of autochthonous mammary carcinomas in BALB-neuT mice, transgenic for the activated rat Her2 oncogene. A single injection of Her2(1-683)PyVLPs before tumor inoculation induced a complete rejection of D2F2/E2 tumor cells in BALB/c mice. Similarly, a single injection of Her2(1-683)PyVLPs at 6 weeks of age protected BALB-neuT mice with atypical hyperplasia from a later outgrowth of mammary carcinomas, whereas all controls developed palpable tumors in all mammary glands. VLPs containing only VP1 and VP2 did not induce protection. The protection elicited by Her2(1-683)PyVLPs vaccination was most likely due to a cellular immune response because a Her2-specific response was shown in an ELISPOT assay, whereas antibodies against Her2 were not detected in any of the two models. The results show the feasibility of using MPyV-VLPs carrying Her2 fusion proteins as safe and efficient vaccines against Her2-expressing tumors.
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