Background: Genetic redirection of lymphocytes that have been genetically engineered to recognize antigens other than those originally programmed in their germlines is a potentially powerful tool for immunotherapy of cancers and potentially also of persistent viral infections. The basis for this procedure is that both cancers and some viruses have developed strikingly similar mechanisms of evading attacks by host immune mechanisms. To redirect human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) with a chimeric T cell receptor (chTCR) so that they recognize a new target requires a high degree of transfection efficiency, a process that is regarded as technically demanding.
Results: Infection with a retroviral vector carrying a chTCR cassette was shown to transduce 100% of rapidly dividing murine T cells but typically, only approximately 10% of PBLs could be infected with the same vector. In contrast with other retroviruses, lentiviruses integrate their genomes into non-dividing cells. To increase host cell range, vesicular stomatitis virus G protein was pseudotyped with a lentivirus vector, which resulted in approximately 100% PBL transduction efficiency. Signaling of PBLs bearing chimeric receptors was shown by specific proliferation on exposure to cells expressing cognate ligand. Further, T-bodies against CEA showed a startling ability to cause regression of malignant colon tumors in a nude mouse model of human cancer.
Conclusion: A lentivirus/VSV pseudotyped virus, which does not require replicating cells for integration of its genome, efficiently transduced a high proportion of human PBLs with chTCRs against CEA. PBLs transduced by infection with a lentivirus/VSV pseudotyped vector were able to proliferate specifically in vitro on exposure to CEA-expressing cells and further they had a startling therapeutic effect in a mouse model of human colon cancer.