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J Transl Med. 2011 Sep 5;9:147. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-9-147.

Generating HPV specific T helper cells for the treatment of HPV induced malignancies using TCR gene transfer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, VU University Medical Center, de Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Infection with high risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is associated with cancer of the cervix, vagina, penis, vulva, anus and some cases of head and neck carcinomas. The HPV derived oncoproteins E6 and E7 are constitutively expressed in tumor cells and therefore potential targets for T cell mediated adoptive immunotherapy. Effective immunotherapy is dependent on the presence of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. However, low precursor frequencies of HPV16 specific T cells in patients and healthy donors hampers routine isolation of these cells for adoptive transfer purposes. An alternative to generate HPV specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells is TCR gene transfer.


HPV specific CD4+ T cells were generated using either a MHC class I or MHC class II restricted TCR (from clones A9 and 24.101 respectively) directed against HPV16 antigens. Functional analysis was performed by interferon-γ secretion, proliferation and cytokine production assays.


Introduction of HPV16 specific TCRs into blood derived CD4+ recipient T cells resulted in recognition of the relevant HPV16 epitope as determined by IFN-γ secretion. Importantly, we also show recognition of the endogenously processed and HLA-DP1 presented HPV16E6 epitope by 24.101 TCR transgenic CD4+ T cells and recognition of the HLA-A2 presented HPV16E7 epitope by A9 TCR transgenic CD4+ T cells.


Our data indicate that TCR transfer is feasible as an alternative strategy to generate human HPV16 specific CD4+ T helper cells for the treatment of patients suffering from cervical cancer and other HPV16 induced malignancies.

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