Selective targeting of engineered T cells using orthogonal IL-2 cytokine-receptor complexes

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Science  02 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 1037-1042
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3246

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Engineering cytokine-receptor pairs

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is an important cytokine that helps T cells destroy tumors and virus-infected cells. IL-2 has great therapeutic promise but is limited by toxic side effects and its capacity to both activate and repress immune responses. Sockolosky et al. set out to improve IL-2–based immunotherapy by engineering synthetic IL-2–receptor pairs (i.e., IL-2 and its receptor, IL-2R) (see the Perspective by Mackall). Engineered complexes transmitted IL-2 signals but only interacted with each other and not with endogenous IL-2/IL-2R. Treatment of mice with IL-2 improved the ability of engineered T cells to reject tumors with no obvious side effects. This type of approach may provide a way to mitigate toxicities associated with some cytokine-based immunotherapies.

Science, this issue p. 1037; see also p. 990


Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a cytokine required for effector T cell expansion, survival, and function, especially for engineered T cells in adoptive cell immunotherapy, but its pleiotropy leads to simultaneous stimulation and suppression of immune responses as well as systemic toxicity, limiting its therapeutic use. We engineered IL-2 cytokine-receptor orthogonal (ortho) pairs that interact with one another, transmitting native IL-2 signals, but do not interact with their natural cytokine and receptor counterparts. Introduction of orthoIL-2Rβ into T cells enabled the selective cellular targeting of orthoIL-2 to engineered CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in vitro and in vivo, with limited off-target effects and negligible toxicity. OrthoIL-2 pairs were efficacious in a preclinical mouse cancer model of adoptive cell therapy and may therefore represent a synthetic approach to achieving selective potentiation of engineered cells.

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