Genetic engineering of T cell specificity for immunotherapy of cancer
Human Immunology , Volume 64 - Issue 1 p. 56- 68
The ultimate goal of immunotherapy of cancer is to make use of the immune system of patients to eliminate malignant cells. Research has mainly focused on the generation of effective antigen specific T-cell responses because of the general belief that T-cell immunity is essential in controlling tumor growth and protection against viral infections. However, the isolation of antigen specific T cells for therapeutic application is a laborious task and it is often impossible to derive autologous tumor specific T cells to be used for adoptive immunotherapy. Therefore, strategies were developed to genetically transfer tumor specific immune receptors into patients T cells. To this end, chimeric receptors were constructed that comprise antibody fragments specific for tumor associated antigens, linked to genes encoding signaling domains of the T-cell receptor (TCR) or Fc receptor. T cells expressing such chimeric antibody receptors recapitulate the immune specific responses mediated by the introduced receptor. Recently, we introduced chimeric TCR genes into primary human T lymphocytes and demonstrated that these T cell transductants acquired the exquisite major histocompatibility complex (MHC) restricted tumor specificity dictated by the introduced TCR. Importantly, the introduction of chimeric TCR bypasses problems associated with the introduction of nonmodified TCR genes, such as pairing of introduced TCR chains with endogenous TCR chains and unstable TCRα expression. A novel strategy which is completely independent of available tumor specific T-cell clones for cloning of the TCR genes was recently used to transfer MHC restricted tumor specificity to T cells. Human "TCR-like" Fab fragments obtained by in vitro selection of Fab phages on soluble peptide/MHC complexes were functionally expressed on human T lymphocytes, resulting in MHC restricted, tumor specific lysis and cytokine production. In addition, affinity maturation of the antibody fragment on Fab phages allows improvement of the tumor cell killing capacity of chimeric Fab receptor engrafted T cells. Developments in retroviral transfer technology now enables the generation of large numbers of antigen specific T cells that can be used for adoptive transfer to cancer patients. In this article we summarize the developments in adoptive T cell immunogenetic therapy and discuss the limitations and perspectives to improve this technology toward clinical application.