Armored Inducible Expression of IL-12 Enhances Antitumor Activity of Glypican-3-Targeted Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Engineered T Cells in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

J Immunol. 2019 Jul 1;203(1):198-207. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1800033. Epub 2019 May 29.


Adoptive immunotherapy based on chimeric antigen receptor-modified T (CAR-T) cells has been demonstrated as one of the most promising therapeutic strategies in the treatment of malignancies. However, CAR-T cell therapy has shown limited efficacy for the treatment of solid tumors. This is, in part, because of tumor heterogeneity and a hostile tumor microenvironment, which could suppress adoptively transferred T cell activity. In this study, we, respectively, engineered human- or murine-derived-armored glypican-3 (GPC3)-specific CAR-T cells capable of inducibly expressing IL-12 (GPC3-28Z-NFAT-IL-12) T cells. The results showed that GPC3-28Z-NFAT-IL-12 T cells could lyse GPC3+ tumor cells specifically and increase cytokine secretion compared with GPC3-28Z T cells in vitro. In vivo, GPC3-28Z-NFAT-IL-12 T cells augmented the antitumor effect when encountering GPC3+ large tumor burdens, which could be attributed to IL-12 increasing IFN-γ production, favoring T cells infiltration and persistence. Furthermore, in immunocompetent hosts, low doses of GPC3-m28Z-mNFAT-mIL-12 T cells exerted superior antitumor efficacy without prior conditioning in comparison with GPC3-m28Z T cells. Also, mIL-12 secretion decreased regulatory T cell infiltration in established tumors. In conclusion, these findings demonstrated that the inducible expression of IL-12 could boost CAR-T function with less potential side effects, both in immunodeficient and immunocompetent hosts. The inducibly expressed IL-12-armored GPC3-CAR-T cells could broaden the application of CAR-T-based immunotherapy to patients intolerant of lymphodepletion chemotherapy and might provide an alternative therapeutic strategy for patients with GPC3+ cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Glypicans / genetics
  • Glypicans / immunology
  • Glypicans / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Interleukin-12 / genetics
  • Interleukin-12 / immunology
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / immunology
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / physiology*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / transplantation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Protein Engineering
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics
  • T-Cell Antigen Receptor Specificity / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • GPC3 protein, human
  • GPC3 protein, mouse
  • Glypicans
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Interleukin-12