Characterisation of an engineered trastuzumab IgE antibody and effector cell mechanisms targeting HER2/neu-positive tumour cells

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2009 Jun;58(6):915-30. doi: 10.1007/s00262-008-0607-1. Epub 2008 Oct 22.


Trastuzumab (Herceptin), a humanized IgG1 antibody raised against the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/neu), is the main antibody in clinical use against breast cancer. Pre-clinical evidence and clinical studies indicate that trastuzumab employs several anti-tumour mechanisms that most likely contribute to enhanced survival of patients with HER2/neu-positive breast carcinomas. New strategies are aimed at improving antibody-based therapeutics like trastuzumab, e.g. by enhancing antibody-mediated effector function mechanisms. Based on our previous findings that a chimaeric ovarian tumour antigen-specific IgE antibody showed greater efficacy in tumour cell killing, compared to the corresponding IgG1 antibody, we have produced an IgE homologue of trastuzumab. Trastuzumab IgE was engineered with the same light- and heavy-chain variable-regions as trastuzumab, but with an epsilon in place of the gamma-1 heavy-chain constant region. We describe the physical characterisation and ligand binding properties of the trastuzumab IgE and elucidate its potential anti-tumour activities in functional assays. Both trastuzumab and trastuzumab IgE can activate monocytic cells to kill tumour cells, but they operate by different mechanisms: trastuzumab functions in antibody-dependent cell-mediated phagocytosis (ADCP), whereas trastuzumab IgE functions in antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Trastuzumab IgE, incubated with mast cells and HER2/neu-expressing tumour cells, triggers mast cell degranulation, recruiting against cancer cells a potent immune response, characteristic of allergic reactions. Finally, in viability assays both antibodies mediate comparable levels of tumour cell growth arrest. These functional characteristics of trastuzumab IgE, some distinct from those of trastuzumab, indicate its potential to complement or improve upon the existing clinical benefits of trastuzumab.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity / drug effects
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity / immunology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology*
  • Monocytes / cytology
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis
  • Protein Engineering
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology*
  • Receptors, IgE / immunology
  • Receptors, IgE / metabolism
  • Trastuzumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • FCER1A protein, human
  • Receptors, IgE
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab