NYMC Faculty Publications


Genetically Re-engineered K562 Cells Significantly Expand and Functionally Activate Cord Blood Natural Killer Cells: Potential for Adoptive Cellular Immunotherapy

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Natural killer (NK) cells play a significant role in reducing relapse in patients with hematological malignancies after allogeneic stem cell transplantation, but NK cell number and naturally occurring inhibitory signals limit their capability. Interleukin-15 (IL-15) and 4-1BBL are important modulators of NK expansion and functional activation. To overcome these limitations, cord blood mononuclear cells (CB MNCs) were ex vivo expanded for 7 days with genetically modified K562-mbIL15-41BBL (MODK562) or wild-type K562 (WTK562). NK cell expansion; expression of lysosome-associated membrane protein-1 (LAMP-1), granzyme B, and perforin; and in vitro and in vivo cytotoxicity against B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL) were evaluated. In vivo tumor growth in B-NHL-xenografted nonobese diabetic severe combined immune deficient (NOD-scid) gamma (NSG) mice was monitored by tumor volume, cell number, and survival. CB MNCs cultured with MODK562 compared with WTK562 demonstrated significantly increased NK expansion (thirty-fivefold, p < 0.05); LAMP-1 (p < 0.05), granzyme B, and perforin expression (p < 0.001); and in vitro cytotoxicity against B-NHL (p < 0.01). Xenografted mice treated with MODK562 CB experienced significantly decreased B-NHL tumor volume (p = 0.0086) and B-NHL cell numbers (p < 0.01) at 5 weeks and significantly increased survival (p < 0.001) at 10 weeks compared with WTK562. In summary, MODK562 significantly enhanced CB NK expansion and cytotoxicity, enhanced survival in a human Burkitt's lymphoma xenograft NSG model, and could be used in the future as adoptive cellular immunotherapy after umbilical CB transplantation. Future directions include expanding anti-CD20 chimeric receptor-modified CB NK cells to enhance B-NHL targeting in vitro and in vivo.