Immunization against Tumors Caused by Human Viruses

Immunization against Tumors Caused by Human Viruses

RNDr. Michal Šmahel, Ph.D.

RNDr. Michal Šmahel, Ph.D. — Project head

The Faculty of Science of the Charles University

About us

This project is focused on the optimization of DNA immunization against tumors induced with human papillomaviruses (HPVs). To enhance the efficacy of this antitumor vaccination, various fusion genes that express antigens with favorable characteristics (e.g. with inserted strong universal helper epitopes or with cellular localization that targets antigens into pathways of MHC class I and/or class II presentation) are constructed. Furthermore, the research team attempts to augment the antitumor effect of DNA immunization by combination with other immunotherapeutic approaches – blockade of immune checkpoint receptors with monoclonal antibodies and activation of toll-like receptors with their ligands.

Murine lung metastasesLung metastases


DNA vaccines that are delivered by a gene gun are aimed against the viral oncoprotein E7, which represents a tumor specific antigen. The efficacy of immunotherapy is examined in mouse tumor models that are also developed in the laboratory, including derivation of tumor cell lines with reduced expression of MHC class I molecules. As this reduction is one of the most frequent mechanisms of tumor escape from the host immunity, it could contribute to the limited therapeutic effect of cancer immunotherapy in clinical trials.

To study factors that influence the effect of cancer immunotherapy, mouse oncogenic cell lines are modified with the CRISPR/Cas9 system and immune reactions induced by immunotherapy are analyzed. Particularly, immune cells that infiltrate tumors with various MHC class I expression and contribute to an anti-tumor effect are characterized. Moreover, spatial and temporal heterogeneity of immune cells in tumor microenvironment is analyzed. Finally, the interaction of some human oncogenic viruses with plasmacytoid dendritic cells is investigated.


Potential for cooperation

In this project, we can cooperate with research laboratories studying tumor immunology, immunotherapy of malignant diseases, and tumor escape mechanisms. We also welcome cooperation with clinical institutions that are interested in immune reactions in patients with malignancies or that are performing clinical trials of cancer immunotherapy. Next, we can cooperate with pharmacological companies in preclinical testing of combined antitumor therapy that includes immunotherapy, especially immune checkpoint blockade. In these studies, we can provide our mouse models of tumors with downregulated MHC class I expression and analyze immune reactions by ELISPOT and ELISA assays, immunohistochemical staining of tumors, and flow cytometric phenotyping of tumor-infiltrating immune cells.






Pokrývková B., Šmahelová J., Dalewská N., Grega M., Vencálek O., Šmahel M., Nunvář J., Klozar J., Tachezy R.(2021): ARG1 mRNA level is a promising prognostic marker in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Diagnostics 11 (4): 628.

Vackova J., Polakova I., Johari S.D., Smahel M. (2021): CD80 expression on yumor cells alters tumor microenvironment and efficacy of cancer immunotherapy by CTLA-4 blockade. Cancers 13 (8): 1935.


Vackova J., Piatakova A., Polakova I., Smahel M. (2020): Abrogation of IFN-γ signaling may not worsen sensitivity to PD-1/PD-L1 blockade. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 21 (5): 1806.

Kanwal M., Smahel M., Olsen M., Smahelova J., Tachezy R. (2020): Aspartate β-hydroxylase as a target for cancer therapy. J. Exp. Clin. Cancer Res. 39 (1): 163.


Lhotáková K., Grzelak A., Poláková I., Vacková J., Šmahel M. (2019): Establishment and characterization of a mouse tumor cell line with irreversible downregulation of MHC class I molecules. Oncol. Rep. 42 (6): 2826-2835.

Poláková I., Pelák O., Thürner D., Pokrývková B., Tachezy R., Kalina T., Šmahel M. (2019): Implementation of mass cytometry for immunoprofiling of patients with solid tumors. J. Immunol. Res. 2019: 6705949.


Grzelak A., Poláková I., Šmahelová J., Vacková J., Pekarčíková L., Tachezy R., Šmahel M. (2018): Experimental combined immunotherapy of tumours with major histocompatibility complex class I downregulation. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 19 (11): pii: E3693.


Šmahel M. (2017): PD-1/PD-L1 Blockade Therapy for Tumors with Downregulated MHC Class I Expression. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 18 (6): pii: E1331.

Šmahelová J., Kaštánková I., Poláková K.M., Klamová H., Zemanová K., Tachezy R., Hamšíková E., Šmahel M. (2017): Expression of genes encoding centrosomal proteins and the humoral response against these proteins in chronic myeloid leukemia. Oncol. Rep. 37 (1): 547-554.


Kaštánková I., Poláková I., Dušková M., Šmahel M. (2016): Combined cancer immunotherapy against Aurora kinase A. J. Immunother. 39 (4): 160-170.


Vaculík P., Plchová H., Moravec T., Hoffmeisterová H., Čeřovská N., Šmahel M. (2015). Potato virus X displaying the E7 peptide derived from human papillomavirus type 16: a novel position for epitope presentation. Plant Cell Tiss. Org. Cult. 120 (2): 671-680.


Poláková I., Dušková M., Šmahel M. (2014): Antitumor DNA vaccination against the Sox2 transcription factor. Int. J. Oncol. 45 (1): 139-146.

Šmahel M., Dušková M., Poláková I., Musil J. (2014): Enhancement of DNA vaccine potency against legumain. J. Immunother. 37 (5): 293-303.

Šmahel M., Poláková I., Dušková M., Ludvíková V., Kaštánková I. (2014): The effect of helper epitopes and cellular localization of an antigen on the outcome of gene gun DNA immunization. Gene Ther. 21 (2): 225-232.


RNDr. Michal Šmahel, Ph.D. RNDr. Michal Šmahel, Ph.D.

Michal Šmahel, Ph.D.

Head of Group Immunization against Tumors Caused by Human Viruses
+420325873921, +420325873947
M.Phil. Madiha Kanwal, Ph.D. M.Phil. Madiha Kanwal, Ph.D.

Madiha Kanwal, Ph.D.

junior researcher