Adoptive transfer of gene modified T cells provides possible immunotherapy for patients with cancers refractory to other treatments. We have previously used the non-viral piggyBac transposon system to gene modify human T cells for potential immunotherapy. However, these previous studies utilized adoptive transfer of modified human T cells to target cancer xenografts in highly immunodeficient (NOD-SCID) mice that do not recapitulate an intact immune system. Currently, only viral vectors have shown efficacy in permanently genemodifying mouse T cells for immunotherapy applications. Therefore, we sought to determine if piggyBac could effectively gene modify mouse T cells to target cancer cells in a mouse cancer model. We first demonstrated that we could gene modify cells to express murine interleukin-12 (p35/p40 mIL-12), a transgene with proven efficacy in melanoma immunotherapy. The OT-I melanoma mouse model provides a well-established T cell mediated immune response to ovalbumin (OVA) positive B16 melanoma cells. B16/OVA melanoma cells were implanted in wild type C57Bl6 mice. Mouse splenocytes were isolated from C57Bl6 OT-I mice and were gene modified using piggyBac to express luciferase. Adoptive transfer of luciferase-modified OT-I splenocytes demonstrated homing to B16/OVA melanoma tumors in vivo.We next gene-modified OT-I cells to express mIL-12. Adoptive transfer of mIL-12-modified mouse OT-I splenocytes delayed B16/OVA melanoma tumor growth in vivo compared to control OT-I splenocytes and improved mouse survival. Our results demonstrate that the piggyBac transposon system can be used to gene modify splenocytes and mouse T cells for evaluating adoptive immunotherapy strategies in immunocompetent mouse tumor models that may more directly mimic immunotherapy applications in humans.
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