Combining AFM13, a Bispecific CD30/CD16 Antibody, with Cytokine-Activated Blood and Cord Blood-Derived NK Cells Facilitates CAR-like Responses Against CD30+ Malignancies

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Jul 1;27(13):3744-3756. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0164. Epub 2021 May 13.


Purpose: Natural killer (NK)-cell recognition and function against NK-resistant cancers remain substantial barriers to the broad application of NK-cell immunotherapy. Potential solutions include bispecific engagers that target NK-cell activity via an NK-activating receptor when simultaneously targeting a tumor-specific antigen, as well as enhancing functionality using IL12/15/18 cytokine pre-activation.

Experimental design: We assessed single-cell NK-cell responses stimulated by the tetravalent bispecific antibody AFM13 that binds CD30 on leukemia/lymphoma targets and CD16A on various types of NK cells using mass cytometry and cytotoxicity assays. The combination of AFM13 and IL12/15/18 pre-activation of blood and cord blood-derived NK cells was investigated in vitro and in vivo.

Results: We found heterogeneity within AFM13-directed conventional blood NK cell (cNK) responses, as well as consistent AFM13-directed polyfunctional activation of mature NK cells across donors. NK-cell source also impacted the AFM13 response, with cNK cells from healthy donors exhibiting superior responses to those from patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. IL12/15/18-induced memory-like NK cells from peripheral blood exhibited enhanced killing of CD30+ lymphoma targets directed by AFM13, compared with cNK cells. Cord-blood NK cells preactivated with IL12/15/18 and ex vivo expanded with K562-based feeders also exhibited enhanced killing with AFM13 stimulation via upregulation of signaling pathways related to NK-cell effector function. AFM13-NK complex cells exhibited enhanced responses to CD30+ lymphomas in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusions: We identify AFM13 as a promising combination with cytokine-activated adult blood or cord-blood NK cells to treat CD30+ hematologic malignancies, warranting clinical trials with these novel combinations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bispecific* / therapeutic use
  • Blood / drug effects
  • Blood / immunology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • Fetal Blood / drug effects
  • Fetal Blood / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy* / methods
  • Ki-1 Antigen / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural* / immunology
  • Leukemia* / therapy
  • Lymphoma* / therapy
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Cytokines
  • Ki-1 Antigen
  • Receptors, IgG
  • AFM13