Bypassing immunization: Optimized design of 'designer T cells' against carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)-expressing tumors, and lack of suppression by soluble CEA

K. F. Nolan, C. O. Yun, Y. Akamatsu, J. C. Murphy, S. O. Leung, E. J. Beecham, R. P. Junghans

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Tumor-associated antigens are typically nonimmunogenic in cancer patients, 'immune surveillance' having manifestly failed. The fact that most tumor antigens are normal human proteins presents significant obstacles to current cancer immunization approaches that researchers are presently striving to overcome. An alternative strategy bypasses immunization altogether by direct genetic alteration of autologous patient T cells, to create 'designer T cells' specific to a particular antigen. Chimeric immunoglobulin-T cell receptors (IgTCR) with a specificity for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) were created to evaluate the optimal IgTCR structure for cancer therapy. Antigen-binding domains of a humanized antibody were combined with TCR signaling chains to yield four different chimeric IgTCR: single chain Fv fragment (sFv)-ζ, fragment antigen-binding (Fab)-ζ, sFv-ζ, and Fab-ε. All of the IgTCR were well expressed on T cells, and all showed specific binding and activation, as demonstrated by IL-2 production on contact with immobilized or cellular CEA, excepting sFv-ε alone which was inert solely against cellular targets for steric reasons unique to this construct. In contrast to prior studies of isolated TCR chains that related increased tyrosine-based activation motifs in ζ as a reason for superior signaling potency, these tests are the first to show that ε and ζ are indistinguishable for T cell signaling when assayed in the context of the intact TCR complex. Further, Fab was equivalent to sFv as an IgTCR component for expression and antigen binding, establishing an important alternative for IgTCR antigen recognition because sFvs may often lose antigen affinity. When IgTCR was expressed on normal human T cells, cytotoxic potency was demonstrated at low E:T ratios, with T cell recycling and progressive tumor cell destruction. Contrary to recent speculations, these observations prove that high affinity TCR interactions are not an impediment to serial target engagement and disengagement by cytotoxic T cells. The multivalent intercellular interactions of target cell binding, activation, and cytotoxicity were resistant to inhibition by soluble CEA. These studies establish a potentially important new immunotherapeutic modality for the treatment of CEA-expressing tumors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3928-3941
    Number of pages13
    JournalClinical Cancer Research
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


    • Antigens, CD3/immunology
    • Carcinoembryonic Antigen/biosynthesis/*immunology
    • Colonic Neoplasms/immunology/metabolism/therapy
    • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte/genetics/*immunology/metabolism
    • Humans
    • Immunoglobulins/genetics/immunology/metabolism
    • *Immunotherapy, Adoptive
    • Interleukin-2/secretion
    • Jurkat Cells
    • Lymphocyte Activation/immunology
    • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell/biosynthesis/genetics/immunology/metabolism
    • Recombinant Fusion Proteins/biosynthesis/genetics/immunology/metabolism
    • Solubility
    • T-Lymphocytes/*immunology/metabolism/physiology
    • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic/immunology/metabolism
    • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer/secretion
    • Tumor Cells, Cultured


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