Self-Delivering RNAi Targeting PD-1 Improves Tumor-Specific T Cell Functionality for Adoptive Cell Therapy of Malignant Melanoma

Mol Ther. 2018 Jun 6;26(6):1482-1493. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2018.04.015. Epub 2018 Apr 13.


Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) is becoming a prominent alternative therapeutic treatment for cancer patients relapsing on traditional therapies. In parallel, antibodies targeting immune checkpoint molecules, such as cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) and cell death protein 1 pathway (PD-1), are rapidly being approved for multiple cancer types, including as first line therapy for PD-L1-expressing non-small-cell lung cancer. The combination of ACT and checkpoint blockade could substantially boost the efficacy of ACT. In this study, we generated a novel self-delivering small interfering RNA (siRNA) (sdRNA) that knocked down PD-1 expression on healthy donor T cells as well as patient-derived tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). We have developed an alternative chemical modification of RNA backbone for improved stability and increased efficacy. Our results show that T cells treated with sdRNA specific for PD-1 had increased interferon γ (IFN-γ) secreting capacity and that this modality of gene expression interference could be utilized in our rapid expansion protocol for production of TIL for therapy. TIL expanded in the presence of PD-1-specific sdRNA performed with increased functionality against autologous tumor as compared to control TIL. This method of introducing RNAi into T cells to modify the expression of proteins could easily be adopted into any ACT protocol and will lead to the exploration of new combination therapies.

Keywords: PD-1; RNA interference; adoptive cell therapy; checkpoint blockade; rapid expansion protocol; sd-rxRNA; sdRNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / genetics
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*


  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • Interferon-gamma