Engineering human tumor-specific cytotoxic T cells to function in a hypoxic environment

Hongsung Kim, Guangyong Peng, John M. Hicks, Heidi L. Weiss, Erwin G. Van Meir, Malcolm Brenner, Patricia Yotnda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Hypoxia occurs in many tumors and reduces the effectiveness of radio- and chemotherapy. Hypoxia also impedes immune responses to tumors, reducing T lymphocyte production of cytokines such as interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon gamma, as well as the survival and proliferation of these cells. We constructed a lentiviral vector encoding a bidirectional hypoxia-inducible responsive element (HRE) derived from human vascular endothelial growth factor, which drives the hIL-2 gene and a marker gene. We used a model of human B cell lymphoma to show that tumor-specific T cells modified with this vector upregulate hIL-2 expression when oxygen tension is low in vitro and in vivo. The consequence of this effect is to increase T-cell survival and proliferation whilst sustaining effector function, even in O2 concentrations as low as 1%. The phenotype of the transduced cells is unchanged, as is their ability to migrate to tumor. HRE-IL-2-modified cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) produce faster and more complete tumor regression than parental CTLs and increase overall survival. Hypoxia-resistant T cells may thus be of value in the treatment of human tumors in which areas of hypoxia may otherwise account for resistance to this therapeutic strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-606
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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