Cytokine-induced killer cells engineered with exogenous t-cell receptors directed against melanoma antigens: Enhanced efficacy of effector cells endowed with a double mechanism of tumor recognition

Angela R. Elia, Paola Circosta, Dario Sangiolo, Chiara Bonini, Loretta Gammaitoni, Sara Mastaglio, Pietro Genovese, Massimo Geuna, Fabio Avolio, Giorgio Inghirami, Corrado Tarella, Alessandro Cignetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells consist of a heterogeneous population of polyclonal T lymphocytes displaying NK phenotype and HLA-unrestricted cytotoxic activity against a broad range of tumors. We sought to determine whether transduction of CIK cells with T cell receptor (TCR) genes specific for tumor-associated antigens could generate effector cells endowed with a double mechanism of tumor recognition. HLA-A2-restricted TCR-transduced (TD) CIK directed against the melanoma antigens Mart1 and NY-ESO1 were generated by lentiviral transduction and successfully expanded over a 3-4-week period. TD-CIK cells were both CD3+/CD56- and CD3+/CD56+ (31±8% and 59±9%, respectively), indicating that both major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted T cells and MHC-unrestricted CIK could be targeted by lentiviral transduction. At the end of the culture, the majority of both unmodified and TD-CIK displayed an effector memory phenotype, without considerable expression of replicative senescence and exhaustion markers. Functionally, TD-CIK specifically recognized tumor cells expressing the relevant antigen as well as maintained their MHC-unrestricted tumor activity. The cytotoxic activity of TD-CIK against HLA-A2+ melanoma cell lines was significantly higher than the untransduced counterparts at a low effector:target ratio (cytotoxic activity of TD-CIK was from 1.9- to 4.3-fold higher than untransduced counterparts). TD-CIK were highly proficient in releasing high amount of IFN-γ upon antigen-specific stimulation and were able to recognize primary melanoma targets. In conclusion, we showed that (1) the reproducibility and simplicity of CIK transduction and expansion might solve the problem of obtaining adequate numbers of potent antitumor effector cells for adoptive immunotherapy; (2) the presence of both terminal effectors as well as of less differentiated progenitors might confer them long survival in vivo; and (3) the addition of an MHC-restricted antigen recognition allows not only targeting tumor surface antigens but also a wider range of cytoplasmic or nuclear antigens, involved in tumor proliferation and survival. TD-CIK cells with a double mechanism of tumor recognition are an attractive and alternative tool for the development of efficient cell therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-231
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Gene Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Medicine(all)

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