Over-expressing Akt in T cells to resist tumor immunosuppression and increase anti-tumor activity

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Background: Tumor employs various means to escape immunosurveillance and inhibit immune attack, and strategies have been developed to counteract the inhibitory signals. However, due to the complex suppressive mechanisms in the tumor microenvironment, blocking one or a few inhibitory signals has only limited effects on therapeutic efficacy. Instead of targeting tumor immunosuppression, we considered from another point of view, and hypothesized that manipulating T cells to make them resist any known or unknown suppressive mechanism may be more effective for cancer treatment. Methods: We used OT-1 cells transduced with retroviruses encoding Akt and human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) transduced with retroviruses encoding both Akt and a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) specific for tumor antigen EpCAM to examine the effect of over-expressing Akt on tumor specific T cells in tumor environment. Results: We show that Akt activity of T cells in the tumor environment was inhibited, and over-expressing Akt in OT-1 cells increased the cytokine production and cell proliferation in the presence of B16-OVA tumor cells. What's more, adoptive transfer of OT-1 cells over-expressing Akt inhibited B16-OVA tumor growth and prolonged mouse survival. To examine if over-expressing Akt could increase the anti-tumor activity of T cells in human cancer, PBLs co-expressing EpCAM specific CAR and Akt were cultured with EpCAM-expressing human prostate cancer cells PC3M, and less inhibition on cell proliferation and less apoptosis were observed. In addition, adoptive transfer of PC3M specific T cells over-expressing Akt resulted in more dramatic tumor inhibitory effects in PC3M bearing NOD/SCID mice. Conclusions: These data indicates that over-expressing Akt in tumor specific T cells increases T cell proliferation and activity in the tumor environment, and enhances anti-tumor effects of adoptively transferred T cells. Our study provides a new strategy to improve the efficacy of adoptive T cell therapy, and serves as an important foundation for clinical translation.




Wu, Y., Deng, Z., Tang, Y., Zhang, S., & Zhang, Y. Q. (2015). Over-expressing Akt in T cells to resist tumor immunosuppression and increase anti-tumor activity. BMC Cancer, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-015-1611-4

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