Background: Adoptive T-cell based immunotherapies constitute a promising approach to treat cancer, however, a major problem is to obtain effective and long-lasting anti-tumor responses. Lack of response may be due to insufficient trafficking of specific T cells to tumors. A key requirement for efficient migration of cytotoxic T cells is that they express chemokine receptors that match the chemokines produced by tumor or tumor-associated cells. Methods: In this study, we investigated whether the in vivo tumor trafficking of activated T cells could be enhanced by the expression of the chemokine receptor CX3CR1. Two human colorectal cancer cell lines were used to set up a xenograft tumor model in immunodeficient mice; the NCI-H630, constitutively expressing the chemokine ligand CX3CL1 (Fractalkine), and the RKO cell line, transduced to express CX3CL1. Results: Human primary T cells were transduced with the receptor CX3CR1-eGFP. Upon in vivo adoptive transfer of genetically modified CX3CR1-T cells in mice bearing NCI-H630 tumors, enhanced lymphocyte migration and tumor trafficking were observed, compared to mice receiving Mock-T cells, indicating improved homing ability towards ligand-expressing tumor cells. Furthermore, significant inhibition of tumor growth was found in mice receiving modified CX3CR1-T cells. In contrast, tumors formed by RKO cells transduced with the ligand (RKO-CX3CL1) were not affected, nor more infiltrated upon transfer of CX3CR1-T lymphocytes, likely because high levels of the chemokine were shed by tumor cells in the systemic circulation, thus nullifying the blood-tissue chemokine gradient. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that ectopic expression of CX3CR1 enhanced the homing of adoptively transferred T cells towards CX3CL1-producing tumors, resulting in increased T cell infiltration in tumor tissues and decreased tumor growth. Our results also establish that a correct chemokine gradient between the systemic circulation and the tumor is an essential requirement in adoptive T-cell based immunotherapy to efficiently recruit T cell effectors at the correct sites.

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Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Siddiqui, I. (Imran), Erreni, M. (Marco), van Brakel, M., Debets, R., & Allavena, P. (Paola). (2016). Enhanced recruitment of genetically modified CX3CR1-positive human T cells into Fractalkine/CX3CL1 expressing tumors: Importance of the chemokine gradient. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 4(1), 1–12. doi:10.1186/s40425-016-0125-1