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Blood Cells Mol Dis. 2003 Jul-Aug;31(1):28-37.

The use of lentiviral vectors in gene therapy of leukemia: combinatorial gene delivery of immunomodulators into leukemia cells by state-of-the-art vectors.

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Institute for Genetic Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


Our goal is to develop cell vaccines against leukemia cells, genetically modified to express molecules with potent immune-stimulatory capacities. Pre-clinical evaluation of this approach in murine models has demonstrated efficient anti-leukemic responses with the expression of immunomodulators, in particular GM-CSF and CD80, in irradiated cell vaccines. We have previously shown efficient insertion of GM-CSF and CD80 genes into primary human leukemia cells with the use of second and third generation self-inactivating (SIN) lentiviral vectors (Blood 96 (2000), 1317; Leukemia 16 (2002), 1645). The advantages of lentiviral vectors for development of autologous leukemia cell vaccines include: (1) efficient and consistent gene delivery; (2) high levels of transgene expression; (3) persistent expression of the transduced gene; (4) no viral proteins, as only the transduced gene is expressed; (5) no undesirable cytotoxic effects, and; (6) simplicity of use [leukemia cells are exposed to vector(s) only once]. In this work, we evaluated the insertion of the central polypurine tract and the central termination sequence into a SIN lentiviral vector encoding for GM-CSF and CD80, which significantly enhanced the transduction efficiency of primary leukemia cells and provided higher levels of GM-CSF and CD80 co-expression. We also demonstrate a methodology to deliver simultaneously a combination of immunomodulatory molecules (GM-CSF, CD80, IL-4, and CD40L) to activate different pathways of immune stimulation. Therefore, lentiviral vectors offer a simple, versatile, and reliable approach for engineering leukemic cells for use as cell vaccines.

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