T cell-engaging therapies - BiTEs and beyond

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2020 Jul;17(7):418-434. doi: 10.1038/s41571-020-0347-5. Epub 2020 Apr 2.


Immuno-oncology approaches have entered clinical practice, with tremendous progress particularly in the field of T cell-engaging therapies over the past decade. Herein, we provide an overview of the current status of bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) therapy, considering the unprecedented new indication for such therapy in combating minimal (or measurable) residual disease in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and the development of novel approaches based on this concept. Key aspects that we discuss include the current clinical data, challenges relating to treatment administration and patient monitoring, toxicities and resistance to treatment, and novel strategies to overcome these hurdles as well as to broaden the indications for BiTE therapy, particularly to common solid cancers. Elucidation of mechanisms of resistance and immune escape and new technologies used in drug development pave the way for new and more-effective therapies and rational combinatorial approaches. In particular, we highlight novel therapeutic agents, such as bifunctional checkpoint-inhibitory T cell engagers (CiTEs), simultaneous multiple interaction T cell engagers (SMITEs), trispecific killer engagers (TriKEs) and BiTE-expressing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells (CART.BiTE cells), designed to integrate various immune functions into one molecule or a single cellular vector and thereby enhance efficacy without compromising safety. We also discuss the targeting of intracellular tumour-associated epitopes using bispecific constructs with T cell receptor (TCR)-derived, rather than an antibody-based, antigen-recognition domains, termed immune-mobilizing monoclonal TCRs against cancer (ImmTACs), which might broaden the armamentarium of T cell-engaging therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bispecific / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / immunology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / therapy*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / therapeutic use*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen