Adapting a transforming growth factor beta-related tumor protection strategy to enhance antitumor immunity

Blood. 2002 May 1;99(9):3179-87. doi: 10.1182/blood.v99.9.3179.


Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), a pleiotropic cytokine that regulates cell growth and differentiation, is secreted by many human tumors and markedly inhibits tumor-specific cellular immunity. Tumors can avoid the differentiating and apoptotic effects of TGF-beta by expressing a nonfunctional TGF-beta receptor. We have determined whether this immune evasion strategy can be manipulated to shield tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) from the inhibitory effects of tumor-derived TGF-beta. As our model we used Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific CTLs that are infused as treatment for EBV-positive Hodgkin disease but that are vulnerable to the TGF-beta produced by this tumor. CTLs were transduced with a retrovirus vector expressing the dominant-negative TGF-beta type II receptor HATGF-betaRII-Deltacyt. HATGF-betaRII-Deltacyt- but not green fluorescence protein (eGFP)-transduced CTLs was resistant to the antiproliferative and anticytotoxic effects of exogenous TGF-beta. Additionally, receptor-transduced cells continued to secrete cytokines in response to antigenic stimulation. TGF-beta receptor ligation results in phosphorylation of Smad2, and this pathway was disrupted in HATGF-betaRII-Deltacyt-transduced CTLs, confirming blockade of the signal transduction pathway. Long-term expression of TGF-betaRII-Deltacyt did not affect CTL function, phenotype, or growth characteristics. Tumor-specific CTLs expressing HATGF-betaRII-Deltacyt should have a selective functional and survival advantage over unmodified CTLs in the presence of TGF-beta-secreting tumors and may be of value in treatment of these diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / genetics
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / metabolism
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Hodgkin Disease / immunology
  • Hodgkin Disease / therapy*
  • Hodgkin Disease / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Mutation
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type II
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / therapeutic use*
  • Smad2 Protein
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / pharmacology


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • SMAD2 protein, human
  • Smad2 Protein
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type II