Production of Interleukin-2 by EL4 Tumor Cells Induces Natural Killer Cell- and T-Cell-Mediated Immunity

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Systemic administration of recombinant interleukin (rIL)-2 to cancer patients has met with limited clinical success since, despite significant antitumor effects, its use is associated with severe toxicity. Local production of IL-2 by IL-2 gene transfected tumor cells in murine model systems has been reported to induce specific immunity—devoid of toxicity—to the parental non- IL-2-producing tumor cells. We now report enhanced resistance in nonimmunized mice to murine EL4 thymoma cells, producing murine IL-2 following gene transfer (EL4pIL-2). This effect is mediated by activated natural killer (NK) cells, since we observed the same effect in nude mice but not in NKdepleted mice. Additionally, in mice repeatedly vaccinated with irradiated EL4pIL-2 cells, we observed immunity to challenge with a tumorigenic dose of EL4 cells transfected with a control vector, EL4p. EL4-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) were detected in these mice. Mice vaccinated with irradiated EL4p cells were less protected against challenge with a tumorigenic dose of EL4p cells. This study indicates that although some IL-2-producing autologous tumor cells elicit NK-mediated responses and not CTL responses upon inoculation, tumor-specific CTL responses are generated upon repeated vaccinations with these cells. This strategy has potential application for treating a wide variety of cancer patients with autologous IL-2 producing tumor cells.

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