Research Papers:

Multiparameter comparative analysis reveals differential impacts of various cytokines on CART cell phenotype and function ex vivo and in vivo

Xiao-Jun Xu, De-Gang Song, Mathilde Poussin, Qunrui Ye, Prannda Sharma, Alba Rodríguez-García, Yong-Min Tang and Daniel J. Powell _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:82354-82368. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10510

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Xiao-Jun Xu1,2, De-Gang Song1, Mathilde Poussin1, Qunrui Ye1, Prannda Sharma1, Alba Rodríguez-García1, Yong-Min Tang2, Daniel J. Powell1,3

1Ovarian Cancer Research Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

2Department of Hematology Oncology, Children’s Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

3Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Correspondence to:

Daniel J. Powell Jr., email: [email protected]

Keywords: chimeric antigen receptor, cytokine, adoptive immunotherapy, ovarian cancer, T cells

Received: November 21, 2015     Accepted: May 22, 2016     Published: July 9, 2016


Exogenous cytokines are widely applied to enhance the anti-tumor ability of immune cells. However, systematic comparative studies of their effects on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered T (CART) cells are lacking. In this study, CART cells targeting folate receptor-alpha were generated and expanded ex vivo in the presence of different cytokines (IL-2, IL-7, IL-15, IL-18, and IL-21), and their expansion, phenotype and cytotoxic capacity were evaluated, in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the effect of the administration of these cytokines along with CART cells in vivo was also studied. IL-2, IL-7, and IL-15 favored the ex vivo expansion of CART cells compared to other cytokines or no cytokine treatment. IL-7 induced the highest proportion of memory stem cell-like CART cells in the final product, and IL-21 supported the expansion of CART cells with a younger phenotype, while IL-2 induced more differentiated CART cells. IL-2 and IL-15-exposed CART cells secreted more proinflammatory cytokines and presented stronger tumor-lysis ability in vitro. However, when tested in vivo, CART cells exposed to IL-2 ex vivo showed the least anti-tumor effect. In contrast, the administration of IL-15 and IL-21 in combination with CART cells in vivo increased their tumor killing capacity. According to our results, IL-7 and IL-15 show promise to promote ex vivo expansion of CART cells, while IL-15 and IL-21 seem better suited for in vivo administration after CART cell infusion. Collectively, these results may have a profound impact on the efficacy of CART cells in both hematologic and solid cancers.

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