Background: Natural killer (NK) cells are potent cytotoxic lymphocytes that play a critical role in tumor immunosurveillance and control. Cancer stem cells (CSC) initiate and sustain tumor cell growth, mediate drug refractory cancer relapse, and express the well-known surface marker CD133. Methods: DNA fragments from two fully humanized single chain fragment variable (scFv) antibodies recognizing CD16 on NK-cells and CD133 on CSC were genetically spliced forming a novel drug, 16 × 133 BiKE that simultaneously recognizes these antigens to facilitate an immunologic synapse. The anti-CD133 was created using a fusion protein prepared by fusing DNA fragments encoding the two extracellular domains of CD133. Immunization of mice with the resulting fusion protein generated a unique antibody that recognized the molecular framework and was species cross-reactive. Results: In vitro chromium-51 (51Cr) release cytotoxicity assays at both high and low effector:target ratios demonstrated the ability of the heterodimeric biological drug to greatly enhance NK-cell killing of human Caco-2 colorectal carcinoma cells known to overexpress CD133. The tumor associated antigen specificity of the drug for CD133 even enhanced NK-cell cytotoxicity against the NK-resistant human Burkitt's lymphoma Daudi cell line, which has less than 5 % CD133 surface expression. Flow cytometry analysis revealed increases in NK-cell degranulation and Interferon-γ production upon co-culture with Caco-2 targets in the presence of the drug. Conclusion: These studies demonstrate that the innate immune system can be effectively recruited to kill CSC using bispecific antibodies targeting CD133 and that this anti-CD133 scFv may be useful in this bispecific platform or perhaps in the design of more complex trispecific molecules for carcinoma therapy. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]
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