Establishment and Characterization of a Bank of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes for Immunotherapy of Epstein-Barr Virus-Associated Diseases

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Adoptive immunotherapy using Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) generated ex vivo can be an effective treatment of EBV-positive posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD). We describe the establishment of a cryopreserved repository of allogeneic virus-specific CTL lines, to our knowledge the first of its kind in the world. CTL lines were grown by weekly stimulation with autologous EBV immortalized lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from 96 EBV-seropositive blood donors. Analysis of 60 CTL lines grown continuously for 7 to 10 weeks showed an average proportional weekly increase in cell numbers of 1.4, with an overall increase ranging from 1.1 to 83.4. The greatest increase occurred during the early culture period. After four rounds of stimulation, killing of autologous LCLs was generally high (mean 48%); however, most lines required 9 or 10 stimulations to reduce the killing of nonspecific targets. Overall, 79% of CTLs generated showed acceptable levels of specific killing. Phenotypically, the CTL lines consisted of TCRαβ+, CD8+ T cells (medians 97% and 90% respectively) with a minority population of CD4+ T cells (median 2%). Most cells expressed the activation and differentiation markers, HLA-DR, CD26, CD45RO, CD69, and CD150. Favorable results have been obtained in an open trial using partially HLA-matched, allogeneic CTLs from this bank to treat PTLD patients. This now represents a single resource that can provide therapeutic CTLs rapidly on a countrywide basis, superseding the time-consuming, expensive practice of generating autologous CTLs from each patient requiring treatment. Additionally, other patient groups, such as those with EBV-positive Hodgkin disease, may benefit from CTL treatment.

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