Improving adoptive T cell therapy by targeting and controlling IL-12 expression to the tumor environment

Ling Zhang, Sid P. Kerkar, Zhiya Yu, Zhili Zheng, Shicheng Yang, Nicholas P. Restifo, Steven A. Rosenberg, Richard A. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is an important immunostimulatory cytokine, yet its clinical application has been limited by the systemic toxicity associated with its administration. In this work, we developed a strategy to selectively deliver IL-12 to the tumor environment using genetically engineered lymphocytes. However, peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) transduced with a γ-retroviral vector, which constitutively expressed IL-12, failed to expand in culture due to apoptosis. To circumvent this problem, a vector was designed where IL-12 expression was directed by a composite promoter-containing binding motifs for nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT.hIL12.PA2). The NFAT-responsive promoter was activated to drive IL-12 expression upon the recognition of tumor-specific antigen mediated by a T cell receptor (TCR) that was engineered into the same lymphocytes. We tested the efficacy of the inducible IL-12 vector in vivo in a murine melanoma model. Adoptive transfer of pmel-1 T cells genetically engineered with NFAT-murineIL12 (NFAT.mIL12.PA2) significantly enhanced regression of large established B16 melanoma. Notably, this targeted and controlled IL-12 treatment was without toxicity. Taken together, our results suggest that using the NFAT.hIL12.PA2 vector might be a promising approach to enhance adoptive cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)751-759
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving adoptive T cell therapy by targeting and controlling IL-12 expression to the tumor environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this