BiTE: Teaching antibodies to engage T-cells for cancer therapy

Curr Opin Mol Ther. 2009 Feb;11(1):22-30.


Bispecific T-cell-engager (BiTE) antibodies are designed to transiently engage cytotoxic T-cells for lysis of selected target cells. Although this therapeutic concept had been proposed more than two decades ago, BiTE, and also trispecific, antibodies did not achieve clinical proof-of-concept until the past 2 years. Their clinical activity corroborates findings that ex vivo expanded, autologous T-cells derived from tumor tissue, or transfected with specific T-cell receptors, have shown therapeutic potential in the treatment of solid tumors. While these personalized approaches prove that T-cells alone can have considerable therapeutic activity, even in late-stage cancer, they are cumbersome to perform on a broad basis. This is different for cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) antibodies, which facilitate generation of tumor-specific T-cell clones, and also for bi- and tri-specific antibodies that directly engage a large proportion of patients' T-cells for cancer cell lysis. The potential of global T-cell engagement for human cancer therapy by T-cell-engaging antibodies has yet to be fully investigated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bispecific / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antigens, CD
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human