Folate receptor-targeted immunotherapy: Induction of humoral and cellular immunity against hapten-decorated cancer cells

Yingjuan Lu, Emanuela Sega, Philip S. Low

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


We previously exploited the frequent overexpression of folate receptors on cancer cells to decorate malignant cell surfaces selectively with folate-hapten conjugates. In antihapten-immunized hosts, this targeted localization of foreign haptens to tumor cells led to rapid accumulation of autologous antihapten IgG, which in turn yielded potent antitumor activity upon stimulation with cytokines (IL-2, IFN-α). In an effort to understand the effector mechanisms responsible for tumor regression, we have now investigated the involvement of both humoral and cellular immune components in the tumor destruction process. We report that the dependence of therapeutic efficacy on folate-hapten concentration is bimodal, suggesting that the conjugate must bridge between a cell surface FR and an antihapten IgG in order to mediate killing. Studies with cancer cells in vitro further demonstrate that folate-fluorescein-marked tumor cells are killed primarily by antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and phagocytosis, with no contribution from complement-dependent mechanisms. Investigations of specific immune cell involvement also reveal that asialo-GM1+-natural killer cells, macrophages, CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells contribute significantly to recognition/removal of the cancer mass, and that elimination of these cell types markedly compromises the therapy. Because the initial antibody-dependent stage of tumor cell killing is shown to lead to a long-term antibody-independent cellular immunity that involves both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, we propose that Fc receptor-expressing immune cells not only initiate destruction of the IgG-marked tumor cells, but also participate in presentation of endogenous tumor antigens in a manner that leads to long-term cellular immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-719
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 20 2005


  • Cytokine immunostimulation
  • Fc-expressing immune cells
  • Folate receptor
  • Targeting of folate-hapten conjugates
  • Tumor immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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