Recognition of NY-ESO-1+ tumor cells by engineered lymphocytes is enhanced by improved vector design and epigenetic modulation of tumor antigen expression

Jennifer A. Wargo, Paul F. Robbins, Yong Li, Yangbing Zhao, Mona El-Gamil, Diana Caragacianu, Zhili Zheng, Julie A. Hong, Stephanie Downey, David S. Schrump, Steven A. Rosenberg, Richard A. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The therapeutic use of T cell receptor (TCR)-transduced peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) targeting tumor-associated antigens is emerging as a promising investigational treatment for patients with cancer. Initial response rates to therapy were low, suggesting the need to improve the function of TCR-transduced PBL. We constructed standard bicistronic retroviral vectors using an internal promoter or internal ribosomal entry site element as well as vectors incorporating coding sequences for 2A linker peptides between coding sequences for α and β chains targeting the cancer-testis (CT) antigen, NY-ESO-1. Incorporation of coding sequences for 2A linker peptides in the bicistronic TCR expression cassette resulted in up to a fourfold increase in TCR expression and a significant improvement in effector function as measured by interferon-gamma release following co-culture with peptide-pulsed targets and NY-ESO-1+ tumors. We also sought to enhance reactivity of TCR-transduced PBL against tumor targets by modulation of tumor antigen expression on target cells. Induction of NY-ESO-1 expression on tumor targets using the demethylating agent 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (alone or in combination with the histone deacetylase inhibitor depsipeptide) resulted in enhanced interferon-gamma secretion by the TCR-transduced PBL on culture with treated targets. Taken together, these results indicate that design of TCR-based vectors incorporating 2A linker peptides improves TCR expression and effector function of transduced PBL. Furthermore, induction of CT antigen expression through treatment of tumor targets with chromatin-remodeling agents may augment TCR-based immunotherapy targeting these antigens. These results have relevance for TCR-based gene therapies targeting common epithelial malignancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-394
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Epigenetics
  • Gene therapy
  • NY-ESO-1
  • Retroviral vector
  • TCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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