T-cell adoptive therapy of tumors: Mechanisms of improved therapeutic performance

Liaomin Peng, Peter A. Cohen, Jorgen Kjaergaard, Gregory E. Plautz, James H. Finke, Gary K. Koski, Brian J. Czerniecki, Suyu Shu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The T cells of many cancer patients are naturally sensitized to tumor-associated antigens (Ag), or they can readily be sensitized with vaccine maneuvers. In melanoma patients, the adoptive transfer of such T cells can often be causally linked to the objective regression of established tumors. So far, few patients have shown sustained clinical benefit from such therapy, but preclinical mouse studies have now clearly delineated the hurdles that must be overcome to render T-cell-based antitumor therapy effective. Contrary to earlier expectations, it is now established that remarkably potent CD4+ and CD8+ pre-effector T cells are naturally sensitized even in mice bearing progressive, weakly immunogenic tumors. However, such T cells often display signal transduction impairments as a consequence of the tumor environment, which limit their acquisition of optimal effector function. Extracorporealization and culture of these tumor-sensitized T cells with appropriate activation stimuli not only restores normal signal transduction, but also confers resolute effector activity that can often sustain tumor rejection upon reinfusion. In mouse studies, the L-selectinlow fraction of T cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes (TDLN) constitutes the potent pre-effector population and comprises both CD4+ and helper-independent CD8+ T cells. Appropriate in vitro activation confers an apparently unrestricted trafficking capacity to this fraction, and even the ability to proliferate within the tumor bed, leading to unprecedented tumor rejection at anatomic sites (e.g., subcutaneous and intracranial) that were historically refractory to such treatment. Such results underscore the surprising capacity of appropriately activated effector T cells to withstand the immunosuppressive, tolerogenic, and apoptotic influences of the typical tumor environment. Given the increasingly appreciated and critical communications between T cells and host Ag-presenting cells (APC), which cross-present tumor Ag, it is likely that dendritic cell-based vaccine maneuvers that promote sensitization of T1-committed L-selectinlow antitumor T cells will play an increasingly important role in adoptive therapy strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-248
Number of pages34
JournalCritical reviews in immunology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 23 2001


  • CD4 T cells
  • CD8
  • Cytotoxic T cells
  • Dendritic cells
  • Helper-independent T cells
  • Interferon-γ
  • L-selectin(low) T cells
  • Lymphokine-activated killer cells
  • T cells
  • Tumor rejection
  • Tumoricidal macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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