Phoenix-ampho outperforms PG13 as retroviral packaging cells to transduce human T cells with tumor-specific receptors: implications for clinical immunogene therapy of cancer

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Abstract

We have designed a transgene that encodes a scFv(G250) chimeric receptor, which is specific for carboxyanhydrase IX (G250-ligand, G250L), a molecule overexpressed by renal cell cancer (RCC). Retroviral transduction of this transgene into primary human T lymphocytes confers these cells with specific functional responses towards G250L-positive RCC cells. In preparation of a clinical phase (I/II) study in RCC patients, we set up a protocol for gene transduction and expansion of primary human T cells. For this purpose, we directly compared two packaging cell lines, that is, the GALV-pseudotyped MLV producing cell line PG13, and the MLV-A-producing cell line Phi-NX-Ampho (a.k.a. Phoenix-A). We generated and characterized stable scFv(G250)-positive clones of both PG13 and Phoenix cells and optimized the retrovirus production conditions. Transductions of primary human T cells yielded 30-60% scFv(G250)+ T cells using PG13-derived retrovirus versus up to 90% scFv(G250)+ T cells using Phoenix-derived retrovirus. The median number of transgene integrations per scFv(G250)+ T cell differed only 1.5-fold as determined by real-time PCR (mean number of integrations per T cell 2.6 and 3.7 for PG13 and Phoenix-based transductions, respectively). In addition, T cells transduced with Phoenix-derived retrovirus showed, on a per cell basis, 10-30% higher levels of scFv(G250)-mediated TNFα production and cytolysis of G250L+ RCC cells than T cells transduced with PG13-derived retrovirus. The improved functional transduction efficiency together with a limited increase in the number of integrations per recipient cell, made us select Phoenix clone 58 for our clinical immunogene therapy study.

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