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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 May 10;91(10):4318-22.

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes with a grafted recognition specificity for ERBB2-expressing tumor cells.

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Friedrich Miescher-Institute, Basel, Switzerland.


Experimental approaches which exploit the targeted cytolytic activity of lymphocytes are being developed for cancer therapy. We generated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) with specificity for ERBB2 receptor-expressing tumor cells. A binding function was conferred directly on the zeta chain of the T-cell receptor (TCR) complex to circumvent major histocompatibility complex-restricted antigen recognition through the alpha and beta chains of the TCR. A chimeric gene was constructed which encoded a single-chain Fv antibody (scFv, consisting of the joined heavy- and light-chain variable domains of a monoclonal antibody against the extracellular domain of the ERBB2 receptor), a hinge region as a spacer, and the zeta chain of the TCR. This gene was introduced into CTLs by retroviral gene transfer. The signaling potential of the scFv/hinge/zeta receptors was demonstrated by secretion of interferon gamma upon coincubation with ERBB2-expressing cells. Target cells expressing the ERBB2 gene were lysed in vitro with high specificity by the scFv/hinge/zeta-expressing T cells. The growth of ERBB2-transformed cells in athymic nude mice was retarded by adoptively transferred scFv/hinge/zeta-expressing CTLs. Transduced CTLs labeled with a fluorescent dye were specifically detected in tumor sections. Our results suggest that tumor cell lysis by CTLs grafted in vitro with a major histocompatibility complex-independent recognition could become a gene-therapy approach to cancer treatment.

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