Genetically modified dendritic cells in cancer therapy: Implications for transfusion medicine
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Dendritic cells (DCs) are a heterogeneous population of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) identified in various tissues, including the skin (Langerhans cells), lymph nodes (interdigitating and follicular DCs), spleen, and thymus. Properties of DCs include the ability to (1) capture, process, and present foreign antigens; (2) migrate to lymphoid-rich tissue; and (3) stimulate innate and adaptive antigen-specific immune responses. Until recently, the ability to study DCs has been limited by their absence in most culture systems. It is now known that specific cytokines can be used to expand DCs to numbers sufficient for their in vitro evaluation and for their use in human immunotherapy trials. Human DCs can be derived from hematopoietic progenitors (CD34+-derived DCs) or from adherent peripheral blood monocytes (monocyte-derived DCs). Cultured DCs can be recognized by a typical veiled morphologic appearance and expression of surface markers that include major histocompatibility complex class II, CD86/B7.2, CD80/B7.1, CD83, and CD1a. DCs are susceptible to a variety of gene transfer protocols, which can be used to enhance biological function in vivo. Transduction of DCs with genes for defined tumor antigens results in sustained protein expression and presentation of multiple tumor peptides to host T cells. Alternatively, DCs may be transduced with genes for chemokines or immunostimulatory cytokines. Although the combination of ex vivo DC expansion and gene transfer is relatively new, preliminary studies suggest that injection of genetically modified autologous DCs may be capable of generating anti-tumor immune responses in patients with cancer. Preclinical animal studies showing potent antigen-specific tumor immunity after DC-based vaccination support this hypothesis and provide rationale to further evaluate this approach in patients. Preliminary human studies are now required to evaluate optimal DC dose, schedule of vaccination, route of delivery, and maturational state of cultured cells. Initiation of these phase I/II cell therapy-based studies will occur in collaboration with hospital-based transfusion facilities. Issues relating to cell harvesting, storage, culture methodology, and administration require the collaborative efforts of basic scientists, immunologists, clinical investigators, and transfusion medicine staff to ensure strict quality control of injected cellular products. This review is intended to provide a brief overview of clinical DC-based gene transfer.
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