Tetraspecific scFv construct provides NK cell mediated ADCC and self-sustaining stimuli via insertion of IL-15 as a cross-linker

Oncotarget. 2016 Nov 8;7(45):73830-73844. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12073.


Background: The design of a highly effective anti-cancer immune-engager would include targeting of highly drug refractory cancer stem cells (CSC). The design would promote effective antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) and simultaneously promote costimulation to expand and self-sustain the effector NK cell population. Based on our bispecific NK cell engager platform we constructed a tetraspecific killer engager (TetraKE) comprising single-chain variable fragments (scFvs) binding FcγRIII (CD16) on NK cells, EpCAM on carcinoma cells and CD133 on cancer stem cells in order to promote ADCC. Furthermore, an Interleukin (IL)-15-crosslinker enhanced NK cell related proliferation resulting in a highly active drug termed 1615EpCAM133.

Results: Proliferation assays showed TetraKE promoted proliferation and enhanced NK cell survival. Drug-target binding, NK cell related degranulation, and IFN-γ production was specific for both tumor related antigens in EpCAM and CD133 bearing cancer cell lines. The TetraKE showed higher killing activity and superior dose dependent degranulation. Cytokine profiling showed a moderately enhanced IFN-γ production, enhanced GM-CSF production, but no evidence of induction of excessive cytokine release.

Methods: Assembly and synthesis of hybrid genes encoding the TetraKE were performed using DNA shuffling and ligation. The TetraKE was tested for efficacy, specificity, proliferation, survival, and cytokine production using carcinoma cell lines and functional assays measuring NK cell activity.

Conclusion: 1615EpCAM133 combines improved induction of ADCC with enhanced proliferation, limited cytokine response, and prolonged survival and proliferation of NK cells. By linking scFv-related targeting of carcinoma and CSCs with a sustaining IL-15 signal, our new construct shows great promise to target cancer and CSCs.

Keywords: CD133; EpCAM; TetraKE; cancer stem cells; carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen / genetics
  • AC133 Antigen / metabolism
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Degranulation / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule / genetics
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-15 / genetics
  • Interleukin-15 / metabolism*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Protein Binding / immunology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Single-Chain Antibodies / genetics*
  • Single-Chain Antibodies / immunology*


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Interleukin-15
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Single-Chain Antibodies
  • Interferon-gamma