Human leukocyte antigen and/or costimulatory molecules are frequently lacking in metastatic tumor cells, and thus tumor cells are able to escape from the immune system. Although lymphocytes with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) is a promising approach for overcoming this challenge in cancer immunotherapy, administration of modified T cells alone often demonstrates little efficacy in patients. Therefore, in order to enhance the antitumor activity of immune cells in the cancer microenvironment, we used lymphocytes expressing CAR in combination with a fusion protein of IL-2 that contained the single-chain fragmented antibody (scFv) specific for the carcinoembryonic antigen. Among a series of CAR constructs, with or without a spacer and the intracellular domain of CD28, the CAR construct containing CD8α, CD28, and CD3ζ most effectively activated and expressed INF-γ in CAR-bearing T cells. Furthermore, in comparison with free IL-2, the combination of peripheral blood mononuclear cells expressing CAR and the fusion protein containing IL-2 significantly enhanced the antitumor activity against MKN-45 cells, a human gastric cancer cell line. In conclusion, this novel combination therapy of CAR and a fusion protein consisting of a functional cytokine and a fully human scFv may be a promising approach for adoptive cancer immunotherapy.
Keywords: CEA; chimeric antigen receptor; combination therapy; fusion protein; human scFv.