T cells engineered to express a T-cell receptor specific for glypican-3 recognize and kill hepatoma cells in vitro and in mice


  • C. Dargel
  • M. Bassani-Sternberg
  • J. Hasreiter
  • F. Zani
  • J.H. Bockmann
  • F. Thiele
  • F. Bohne
  • K. Wisskirchen
  • S. Wilde
  • M.F. Sprinzl
  • D.J. Schendel
  • A.M. Krackhardt
  • W. Uckert
  • D. Wohlleber
  • M. Schiemann
  • K. Stemmer
  • M. Heikenwälder
  • D.H. Busch
  • G. Richter
  • M. Mann
  • U. Protzer


  • Gastroenterology


  • Gastroenterology 149 (4): 1042-1052


  • BACKGROUND & AIMS: Cancer therapies are being developed based on our ability to direct T cells against tumor antigens. Glypican 3 (GPC3) is expressed by 75% of all hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) but not in healthy liver tissue or other organs. We aimed to generate T cells with GPC3-specific receptors that recognize HCC and used them to eliminate GPC3-expressing xenograft tumors grown from human HCC cells in mice. METHODS: We used mass spectrometry and to obtain a comprehensive peptidome from GPC3-expressing hepatoma cells after immune-affinity purification of HLA-A2, and used bioinformatics to identify immunodominant peptides. To circumvent GPC3-tolerance resulting from fetal expression, dendritic cells from HLA-A2 negative donors were co-transfected with GPC3 and HLA-A2 RNA to stimulate and expand antigen-specific T cells. RESULTS: Peptide GPC3367 was identified as a predominant peptide on HLA-A2. We used A2-GPC3367 multimers to detect, select for, and clone GPC3-specific T cells. These clones bound the A2-GPC3367 multimer and secreted interferon-gamma when cultured with GPC3367, but not with control peptide loaded cells. By genomic sequencing of these T-cell clones, we identified a gene encoding a dominant T-cell receptor. The gene was cloned, the sequence was codon optimized and expressed from a retroviral vector. Primary CD8+ T cells that expressed the transgenic T-cell receptor specifically bound GPC3367 on HLA-A2. These T cells killed GPC3-expressing hepatoma cells in culture and slowed growth of HCC xenograft tumors in mice. CONCLUSION: We identified a GPC3367-specific T-cell receptor. Expression of this receptor by T cells allows them to recognize and kill GPC3-positive hepatoma cells. This finding could be used to advance development of adoptive T-cell therapy for HCC.