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Gene Ther. 2012 Oct;19(10):959-66. doi: 10.1038/gt.2011.185. Epub 2011 Nov 24.

siRNA-mediated silencing of PD-1 ligands enhances tumor-specific human T-cell effector functions.

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Department of Immuno-Gene Therapy, Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, Mie, Japan.


Adoptive cell therapy using tumor-specific T cells is a promising strategy for treating patients with malignancy. However, accumulating evidences have demonstrated that optimal function of tumor-reactive T cells is often attenuated by negative regulatory signal(s) delivered through receptors, such as cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4), programmed death 1 (PD-1), and their cognate ligands. Although systemic blocking of these molecules needs careful attention on the risk of uncontrolled immune activation, selective inhibition of negative signals in tumor-specific T cells by their genetic modification is an attractive approach to overcome immunological suppression in cancer patients. Here, we demonstrate the improved effector functions of tumor-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) human T cells by small interfering RNA (siRNA) -mediated silencing of PD-1 ligands, PD-L1 or PD-L2. Tumor antigen MAGE-A4-specific human T-cell clones upregulated the expression of PD-1 ligands upon activation. siRNA-mediated knockdown of PD-L1 or -L2 enhanced the interferon-γ production and antigen-specific cytotoxicity of these cells. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells transduced with a retroviral vector encoding MAGE-A4-specific T-cell receptor α/β chains also increased their effector functions by this modification. These results suggest that siRNA-mediated knockdown of PD-1 ligands is an attractive strategy to inhibit a negative regulatory mechanism of tumor-specific T cells resulting in enhanced efficacy of adoptive T-cell therapy of cancer using genetically modified autologous lymphocytes.

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