Research Papers:

A fully human chimeric antigen receptor with potent activity against cancer cells but reduced risk for off-tumor toxicity

De-Gang Song _, Qunrui Ye, Mathilde Poussin, Lin Liu, Mariangela Figini and Daniel J. Powell Jr.

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:21533-21546. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.4071

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De-Gang Song1, Qunrui Ye1, Mathilde Poussin1, Lin Liu1, Mariangela Figini2, Daniel J. Powell Jr1,3

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

2Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

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, e-mail: [email protected]

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

Received: February 13, 2015     Accepted: June 08, 2015     Published: June 19, 2015


Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) can redirect T cells against antigen-expressing tumors in an HLA-independent manner. To date, various CARs have been constructed using mouse single chain antibody variable fragments (scFvs) of high affinity that are immunogenic in humans and have the potential to mediate “on-target” toxicity. Here, we developed and evaluated a fully human CAR comprised of the human C4 folate receptor-alpha (αFR)-specific scFv coupled to intracellular T cell signaling domains. Human T cells transduced to express the C4 CAR specifically secreted proinflammatory cytokine and exerted cytolytic functions when cultured with αFR-expressing tumors in vitro. Adoptive transfer of C4 CAR T cells mediated the regression of large, established human ovarian cancer in a xenogeneic mouse model. Relative to a murine MOv19 scFv-based αFR CAR, C4 CAR T cells mediated comparable cytotoxic tumor activity in vitro and in vivo but had lower affinity for αFR protein and exhibited reduced recognition of normal cells expressing low levels of αFR. Thus, T cells expressing a fully human CAR of intermediate affinity can efficiently kill antigen-expressing tumors in vitro and in vivo and may overcome issues of transgene immunogenicity and “on-target off-tumor” toxicity that plague trials utilizing CARs containing mouse-derived, high affinity scFvs.

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