Expansion of cancer germline antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes for immunotherapy

Tumour Biol. 2017 Jul;39(7):1010428317701309. doi: 10.1177/1010428317701309.


The cancer germline antigens MAGE-A1, MAGE-A3, and NY-ESO-1 can be used to target relapsed or therapy-resistant malignant solid tumors, and previous studies have demonstrated that these antigens can be epigenetically upregulated on the surface of tumor cells following exposure to low-dose demethylating chemotherapy agents, such as decitabine. The extent to which cancer germline antigen cytotoxic T lymphocytes can be reliably expanded from healthy donors has not been well characterized, specifically in terms of whether these T cells consistently kill antigen-bearing targets or simply produce interferon-γ in the presence of the antigen. Cancer germline antigen cytotoxic T lymphocytes were generated using conventional method and high-density lymphocyte culture method. We demonstrate that there is no difference in the extent of antigen-specific killing with or without CD25 depletion when interleukin-21 is added to the cultures. Cancer germline antigen-specific killer cells could be expanded from 8/12 healthy donors using overlapping peptide mixes derived from MAGE-A1, MAGE-A3, and NY-ESO-1 and from 7/9 healthy donors using HLA-restricted epitopes. Furthermore, cytotoxic T lymphocyte derived from 4/5 patients displayed specific cytotoxicity of target cells expressing respective cancer germline antigen and HLA partially matched tumor lines. High-density lymphocyte culture prior to stimulation with cancer germline antigen peptides resulted in antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte from healthy donors and patients from whom cancer germline antigen cytotoxic T lymphocyte culture with conventional methods was not feasible. These data demonstrate that MAGE-A1-, MAGE-A3-, and NY-ESO-1-specific T cells with antigen-specific cytotoxicity can be cultured from healthy donors and patient-derived cells making adoptive immunotherapy with these cytotoxic T lymphocyte feasible.

Keywords: Cancer germline antigens; cytotoxic T lymphocytes; high-density pre-culture; immunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Azacitidine / immunology
  • Azacitidine / therapeutic use
  • Decitabine
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Germ Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens / genetics
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens / immunology*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / immunology*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • CTAG1B protein, human
  • Epitopes
  • Interleukins
  • MAGEA1 protein, human
  • MAGEA3 protein, human
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Decitabine
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Azacitidine
  • interleukin-21