Parallel detection of transduced T lymphocytes after immunogene therapy of renal cell cancer by flow cytometry and real-time polymerase chain reaction: implications for loss of transgene expression

C H J Lamers, J W Gratama, N M C Pouw, S C L Langeveld, B A Van Krimpen, J Kraan, G Stoter, R Debets
Human Gene Therapy 2005, 16 (12): 1452-62
We have started a phase I/II immunogene therapy study of metastatic renal cell cancer (RCC), using autologous T lymphocytes transduced ex vivo with a gene encoding a single-chain receptor based on the monoclonal antibody (mAb) G250 [scFv(G250)]. G250 recognizes carbonic anhydrase IX, which is overexpressed by RCC cells. We have developed and validated flow cytometric and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays to quantitatively detect transduced T cells in patient blood. The flow assay was based on staining with the anti-G250 idiotype mAb NuH82 and showed a sensitivity of 0.06% scFv(G250)(1) cells within CD3(1) T cells. The real-time PCR method showed a sensitivity of 14 copies of scFv(G250) DNA per 100 ng of total DNA, which enabled detection of 0.008% scFv(G250)(1) T cells within leukocytes. Both assays were further validated for their specificity and reproducibility. When applied to blood samples from three RCC patients treated with intravenous infusions of scFv(G250)(1) T cells, the kinetics of scFv(G250)(1) T cell counts as detected by flow cytometry were similar to those detected by real-time PCR, although PCR allowed detection of transduced T cells over a longer period of time (i.e., for patient 3, 7 versus 32 days, respectively). Interestingly, follow-up studies of patient 3 demonstrated that the number of circulating scFv(G250)(1) T cells remained fairly constant during the first 7 days posttreatment, whereas the number of gene copies increased during the same period of time. These results suggest loss of scFv(G250) membrane expression on adoptive transfer, which would have important implications for the antitumor efficacy of this form of immunogene therapy.

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