Characterization of KLH-driven immune responses in clinical studies: A systematic review

Mahdi Saghari, Manon A. A. Jansen, Hendrika W. Grievink, Robert Rissmann, Matthijs Moerland

The pharmacological activity assessment of novel immunomodulatory drugs in early-stage drug development is challenging as healthy volunteers do not express relevant immune biomarkers. Alternatively, the immune system can be challenged with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), a suitable antigen for studying adaptive immune responses. This report systemically reviews the KLH challenge in clinical studies focusing on the characterization of the KLH-driven systemic and local immune responses, identification of the KLH-induced biomarkers, and the evaluation of the effect of pharmacological interventions and diseases on the KLH response. A systematic literature review was carried out in PubMed spanning from 1967 to 2022. The systemic humoral KLH responses could be characterized by ELISA after 3 weeks following immunization. For the systemic cellular and molecular immune responses multiple KLH immunizations and the use of novel techniques such as flow cytometry and ELISpot yield optimal results. The objective evaluation of dermal KLH rechallenge allows for more accurate and sensitive quantification of the local response compared to subjective scoring. For the local cellular and molecular assays after KLH dermal rechallenge we also advocate the use of multiple KLH immunizations. Furthermore, oral KLH feeding, age, physical activity, alcohol consumption, stress, as well as certain auto-immune diseases also play a role in the KLH-induced immune response. Importantly, based on the KLH challenges, the effect of (novel) immunomodulatory drugs could be demonstrated in healthy volunteers, providing valuable information for the clinical development of these compounds. This review underlines the value of KLH challenges in clinical studies, but also the need for standardized and well-controlled methodology to induce and evaluate KLH responses.

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