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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2013 Apr;62(4):747-60. doi: 10.1007/s00262-012-1381-7. Epub 2012 Dec 15.

CD1d-antibody fusion proteins target iNKT cells to the tumor and trigger long-term therapeutic responses.

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Ludwig Center for Cancer Research, University of Lausanne, 1066, Epalinges, Switzerland.


Despite the well-established antitumor activity of CD1d-restricted invariant natural killer T lymphocytes (iNKT), their use for cancer therapy has remained challenging. This appears to be due to their strong but short-lived activation followed by long-term anergy after a single administration of the CD1d agonist ligand alpha-galactosylceramide (αGC). As a promising alternative, we obtained sustained mouse iNKT cell responses associated with prolonged antitumor effects through repeated administrations of tumor-targeted recombinant sCD1d-antitumor scFv fusion proteins loaded with αGC. Here, we demonstrate that CD1d fusion proteins bound to tumor cells via the antibody fragment specific for a tumor-associated antigen, efficiently activate human iNKT cell lines leading to potent tumor cell lysis. The importance of CD1d tumor targeting was confirmed in tumor-bearing mice in which only the specific tumor-targeted CD1d fusion protein resulted in tumor inhibition of well-established aggressive tumor grafts. The therapeutic efficacy correlated with the repeated activation of iNKT and natural killer cells marked by their release of TH1 cytokines, despite the up-regulation of the co-inhibitory receptor PD-1. Our results demonstrate the superiority of providing the superagonist αGC loaded on recombinant CD1d proteins and support the use of αGC/sCD1d-antitumor fusion proteins to secure a sustained human and mouse iNKT cell activation, while targeting their cytotoxic activity and cytokine release to the tumor site.

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