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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2008 Mar;57(3):411-23. Epub 2007 Aug 24.

Expression of a CD20-specific chimeric antigen receptor enhances cytotoxic activity of NK cells and overcomes NK-resistance of lymphoma and leukemia cells.

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Chemotherapeutisches Forschungsinstitut Georg-Speyer-Haus, Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse 42-44, 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Despite the clinical success of CD20-specific antibody rituximab, malignancies of B-cell origin continue to present a major clinical challenge, in part due to an inability of the antibody to activate antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) in some patients, and development of resistance in others. Expression of chimeric antigen receptors in effector cells operative in ADCC might allow to bypass insufficient activation via FcgammaRIII and other resistance mechanisms that limit natural killer (NK)-cell activity. Here we have generated genetically modified NK cells carrying a chimeric antigen receptor that consists of a CD20-specific scFv antibody fragment, via a flexible hinge region connected to the CD3zeta chain as a signaling moiety. As effector cells we employed continuously growing, clinically applicable human NK-92 cells. While activity of the retargeted NK-92 against CD20-negative targets remained unchanged, the gene modified NK cells displayed markedly enhanced cytotoxicity toward NK-sensitive CD20 expressing cells. Importantly, in contrast to parental NK-92, CD20-specific NK cells efficiently lysed CD20 expressing but otherwise NK-resistant established and primary lymphoma and leukemia cells, demonstrating that this strategy can overcome NK-cell resistance and might be suitable for the development of effective cell-based therapeutics for the treatment of B-cell malignancies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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