The known role of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in the immune response has been rapidly evolving, from what was once thought to be a simple immunosuppressive antiproliferative effect on T cells to a very complex central role that serves to integrate multiple signals given to T cells, B cells and antigen-presenting cells. The complexity of this topic is demonstrated by recent data suggesting that mTOR inhibition can either inhibit or promote certain aspects of immune responses, depending on the nature of the antigenic stimulus, and the environmental conditions cueing the cellular immunological players. There is even evidence that, under mTOR inhibition, an immune response to one foreign entity (for example, an organ transplant) may be simultaneously completely different to that of another (for example, tumour or microorganism). To understand how this might be possible, it is necessary to investigate the central role that mTOR seems to have in shaping the immune response. This review is aimed at examining how mTOR controls the development and function of key immune cells, and puts this information primarily in the context of organ transplant rejection and post-transplant malignancy.
mammalian target of rapamycin; post-transplant malignancy; T cells; B cells; dendritic cells; organ transplantation
Immune monitoring by flow cytometry is a fast and highly informative way of studying the effects of novel therapeutics aimed at reducing transplant rejection or treating autoimmune diseases. The ONE Study consortium has recently initiated a series of clinical trials aimed at using different cell therapies to promote tolerance to renal allografts. To compare the effectiveness of different cell therapies, the consortium developed a robust immune monitoring strategy, including procedures for whole blood (WB) leukocyte subset profiling by flow cytometry.
Six leukocyte profiling panels computing 7- to 9-surface marker antigens for monitoring the major leukocyte subsets as well as characteristics of T cell, B cell, and dendritic cell (DC) subsets were designed. The precision and variability of these panels were estimated. The assay was standardized within eight international laboratories using Flow-Set Pro beads for mean fluorescence intensity target definition and the flow cytometer setup procedure. Standardization was demonstrated by performing inter-site comparisons.
Optimized methods for sample collection, storage, preparation, and analysis were established, including protocols for gating target subsets. WB specimen age testing demonstrated that staining must be performed within 4 hours of sample collection to keep variability low, meaning less than or equal to 10% for the majority of defined leukocyte subsets. Inter-site comparisons between all participating centers testing shipped normal WB revealed good precision, with a variability of 0.05% to 30% between sites. Intra-assay analyses revealed a variability of 0.05% to 20% for the majority of subpopulations. This was dependent on the frequency of the particular subset, with smaller subsets showing higher variability. The intra-assay variability performance defined limits of quantitation (LoQ) for subsets, which will be the basis for assessing statistically significant differences achieved by the different cell therapies.
Local performance and central analysis of the ONE Study flow cytometry panel yields acceptable variability in a standardized assay at multiple international sites. These panels and procedures with WB allow unmanipulated analysis of changes in absolute cell numbers of leukocyte subsets in single- or multicenter clinical trials. Accordingly, we propose the ONE Study panel may be adopted as a standardized method for monitoring patients in clinical trials enrolling transplant patients, particularly trials of novel tolerance promoting therapies, to facilitate fair and meaningful comparisons between trials.
Immune monitoring; Organ transplantation; Cell therapy; Tolerance; Kidney; Flow cytometry
To investigate the immunopathogenesis of inflammation-associated fibrosis we analyzed the chronic colitis and late-developing fibrosis occurring in BALB/c mice administered weekly doses of intra-rectal trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS). We showed first in this model that an initial Th1 response involving IL-12p70 and IFN-γ subsides after three weeks to be supplanted by an IL-23/IL-25 response beginning after 4–5 weeks. This evolution is followed by gradually increasing production of IL-17 and cytokines ordinarily seen in a Th2 response, particularly IL-13, which reaches a plateau at 8–9 weeks. We then show that IL-13 production results in the induction of an IL-13 receptor formerly thought to function only as a decoy receptor, IL-13Rα2, and this receptor is critical to the production of TGF-β1 and the onset of fibrosis. Thus, if IL-13 signaling through this receptor is blocked by administration of soluble IL-13Rα2-Fc, or by administration of IL-13Rα2–specific siRNA, TGF-β1 is not produced and fibrosis does not occur. These studies show that in chronic TNBS colitis, fibrosis is dependent on the development of an IL-13 response that acts through a novel cell-surface-expressed IL-13 receptor to induce TGF-β1.
The prognosis of patients suffering from pancreatic cancer is still poor and novel therapeutic options are urgently needed. Recently, the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 5b (STAT5b) was associated with tumor progression in human solid cancer. Hence, we assessed whether STAT5b might serve as an anticancer target in ductal pancreatic adenocarcinoma (DPAC). We found that nuclear expression of STAT5b can be detected in approximately 50% of DPAC. Blockade of STAT5b by stable shRNA-mediated knockdown showed no effects on tumor cell growth in vitro. However, inhibition of tumor cell motility was found even in response to stimulation with epidermal growth factor or interleukin-6. These findings were paralleled by a reduction of prometastatic and proangiogenic factors in vitro. Subsequent in vivo experiments revealed a strong growth inhibition on STAT5b blockade in subcutaneous and orthotopic models. These findings were paralleled by impaired tumor angiogenesis in vivo. In contrast to the subcutaneous model, the orthotopic model revealed a strong reduction of tumor cell proliferation that emphasizes the meaning of assessing targets in an appropriate microenvironment. Taken together, our results suggest that STAT5b might be a potential novel target for human DPAC.
For many years, β-defensins were best known for their antimicrobial activity. However, β-defensins also exert immunomodulatory functions, such as the chemotactic recruitment of immune cells via chemokine receptors. We demonstrated that mouse β-defensin 14 recruits CCR6+ B cells into fibrosarcomas, resulting in enhanced angiogenesis and tumor development.
angiogenesis; antimicrobial peptide; chemokine receptor 6; defensin; lymphotoxin β-receptor; tumor growth
Several types of myeloid suppressor cell are currently being developed as cell-based immunosuppressive agents. Despite detailed knowledge about the molecular and cellular functions of these cell types, expert opinions differ on how to best implement such therapies in solid organ transplantation. Efforts in our laboratory to develop a cell-based medicinal product for promoting tolerance in renal transplant patients have focused on a type of suppressor macrophage, which we call the regulatory macrophage (M reg). Our favoured clinical strategy is to administer donor-derived M regs to recipients one week prior to transplantation. In contrast, many groups working with tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs) advocate post-transplant administration of recipient-derived cells. A third alternative, using myeloid-derived suppressor cells, presumably demands that cells are given around the time of transplantation, so that they can infiltrate the graft to create a suppressive environment. On present evidence, it is not possible to say which cell type and treatment strategy might be clinically superior. This review seeks to position our basic scientific and early-stage clinical studies of human regulatory macrophages within the broader context of myeloid suppressor cell therapy in transplantation.
Regulatory macrophage; M reg; Cell-based medicinal product; The ONE Study
Mice lacking Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells develop severe tissue inflammation in lung, skin, and liver with premature death, whereas the intestine remains uninflamed. This study aims to demonstrate the importance of Foxp3+ Treg for the activation of T cells and the development of intestinal inflammation.
Foxp3-GFP-DTR (human diphtheria toxin receptor) C57BL/6 mice allow elimination of Foxp3+ Treg by treatment with Dx (diphtheria toxin). The influence of Foxp3+ Treg on intestinal inflammation was tested using the CD4+ T-cell transfer colitis model in Rag−/− C57BL/6 mice and the acute DSS-colitis model.
Continuous depletion of Foxp3+ Treg in Foxp3-GFP-DTR mice led to dramatic weight loss and death of mice by day 28. After 10 days of depletion of Foxp3+ Treg, isolated CD4+ T-cells were activated and produced extensive amounts of IFN-γ, IL-13, and IL-17A. Transfer of total CD4+ T-cells isolated from Foxp3-GFP-DTR mice did not result in any changes of intestinal homeostasis in Rag−/− C57BL/6 mice. However, administration of DTx between days 14 and 18 after T-cell reconstitution, lead to elimination of Foxp3+ Treg and to immediate weight loss due to intestinal inflammation. This pro-inflammatory effect of Foxp3+ Treg depletion consecutively increased inflammatory cytokine production. Further, the depletion of Foxp3+ Treg from Foxp3-GFP-DTR mice increased the severity of acute dSS-colitis accompanied by 80% lethality of Treg-depleted mice. CD4+ effector T-cells from Foxp3+ Treg-depleted mice produced significantly more pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Intermittent depletion of Foxp3+ Treg aggravates intestinal inflammatory responses demonstrating the importance of Foxp3+ Treg for the balance at the mucosal surface of the intestine.
Natural killer T cells represent a linkage between innate and adaptive immunity. They are a heterogeneous population of specialized T lymphocytes composed of different subsets. DX5+NKT cells are characterized by expression of the NK cell marker DX5 in the context of CD3. However, little is known about the phenotype and functional capacity of this unique cell population. Therefore, we investigated the expression of several T cell and NK cell markers, as well as functional parameters in spleen and liver subsets of DX5+NKT cells in NK1.1- Balb/c mice and compared our findings to NK1.1+ C57Bl/6 mice.
In the spleen 34% of DX5+NKT cells expressed CD62L and they up-regulated the functional receptors CD154 as well as CD178 upon activation. In contrast, only a few liver DX5+NKT cells expressed CD62L, and they did not up-regulate CD154 upon activation. A further difference between spleen and liver subsets was observed in cytokine production. Spleen DX5+NKT cells produced more Th1 cytokines including IL-2, IFN-γ and TNF-α, while liver DX5+NKT cells secreted more Th2 cytokines (e.g. IL-4) and even the Th17 cytokine, IL-17a. Furthermore, we found inter-strain differences. In NK1.1+ C57Bl/6 mice DX5+NKT cells represented a distinct T cell population expressing less CD4 and more CD8. Accordingly, these cells showed a CD178 and Th2-type functional capacity upon activation.
These results show that DX5+NKT cells are a heterogeneous population, depending on the dedicated organ and mouse strain, that has diverse functional capacity.
Patients with prolonged ulcerative colitis (UC) frequently develop colorectal adenocarcinoma for reasons that are not fully clear. To analyze inflammation-associated colonic tumorigenesis, we developed a chronic form of oxazolone-induced colitis in mice that, similar to UC, was distinguished by the presence of IL-13–producing NKT cells. In this model, the induction of tumors using azoxymethane was accompanied by the coappearance of F4/80+CD11bhighGr1low M2 macrophages, cells that undergo polarization by IL-13 and are absent in tumors that lack high level IL-13 production. Importantly, this subset of macrophages was a source of tumor-promoting factors, including IL-6. Similar to dextran sodium sulfate–induced colitis, F4/80+CD11bhighGr1intermediate macrophages were present in the mouse model of chronic oxazolone-induced colitis and may influence tumor development through production of TGF-β1, a cytokine that inhibits tumor immunosurveillance. Finally, while robust chronic oxazolone-induced colitis developed in myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88–deficient (Myd88–/–) mice, these mice did not support tumor development. The inhibition of tumor development in Myd88–/– mice correlated with cessation of IL-6 and TGF-β1 production by M2 and F4/80+CD11bhighGr1intermediate macrophages, respectively, and was reversed by exogenous IL-6. These data show that an UC-like inflammation may facilitate tumor development by providing a milieu favoring development of MyD88-dependent tumor-supporting macrophages.
In previous studies we described a “counter-immunosurveillance” mechanism initiated by tumor-activated, IL-13-producing NKT cells that signal Gr-1+ cells to produce TGF-β1, a cytokine that suppresses the activity of tumor-inhibiting cytolytic CD8+ T cells. Here we show that in two tumor models (the CT-26 metastatic colon cancer and the 15-12RM fibrosarcoma regressor models) this counter-surveillance mechanism requires the expression of a novel IL-13 receptor, IL-13Rα2, on Gr-1intermediate cells, since down-regulation of IL-13Rα2 expression or the AP-1 signal generated by the receptor via in vivo administration of specific siRNA or decoy oligonucleotides leads to loss of TGF-β1 production. Furthermore, acting on prior studies showing that IL-13Rα2 expression is induced (in part) by TNF-α, we show that receptor expression and TGF-β1 production is inhibited by administration of a TNF-α neutralizing substance, TNF-αR-Fc (etanercept). Taking advantage of this latter fact, we then demonstrate in the CT-26 model that counter-immunosurveillance could be inhibited, anti-CT-26-specific CD8+ cytolytic activity restored, and CT-26 metastatic tumor nodules greatly decreased by administration of TNF-αR-Fc. Corroborative data was obtained using the 15-12RM fibrosarcoma model. These studies point to the prevention of metastatic cancer with an available agent with already known clinically acceptable adverse effects and toxicity.
Simultaneous pancreas kidney transplantation (SPK), pancreas transplantation alone (PTA) or pancreas transplantation after kidney (PAK) are the only curative treatment options for patients with type 1 (juvenile) diabetes mellitus with or without impaired renal function. Unfortunately, transplant waiting lists for this indication are increasing because the current organ acceptability criteria are restrictive; morbidity and mortality significantly increase with time on the waitlist. Currently, only pancreas organs from donors younger than 50 years of age and with a body mass index (BMI) less than 30 are allocated for transplantation in the Eurotransplant (ET) area. To address this issue we designed a study to increase the available donor pool for these patients.
This study is a prospective, multicenter (20 German centers), single blinded, non-randomized, two armed trial comparing outcome after SPK, PTA or PAK between organs with the currently allowed donor criteria versus selected organs from donors with extended criteria. Extended donor criteria are defined as organs procured from donors with a BMI of 30 to 34 or a donor age between 50 and 60 years. Immunosuppression is generally standardized using induction therapy with Myfortic, tacrolimus and low dose steroids. In principle, all patients on the waitlist for primary SPK, PTA or PAK are eligible for the clinical trial when they consent to possibly receiving an extended donor criteria organ. Patients receiving an organ meeting the current standard criteria for pancreas allocation (control arm) are compared to those receiving extended criteria organ (study arm); patients are blinded for a follow-up period of one year. The combined primary endpoint is survival of the pancreas allograft and pancreas allograft function after three months, as an early relevant outcome parameter for pancreas transplantation.
The EXPAND Study has been initiated to investigate the hypothesis that locally allocated extended criteria organs can be transplanted with similar results compared to the currently allowed standard ET organ allocation. If our study shows a favorable comparison to standard organ allocation criteria, the morbidity and mortality for patients waiting for transplantation could be reduced in the future.
Trial registered at:
Pancreas transplantation; Organ allocation; Extended donor criteria; Rejection
Cellular therapy after organ transplantation is emerging as an intriguing strategy to achieve dose reduction of classical immunosuppressive pharmacotherapy. Here, we introduce a new scoring system to assess treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) of adherent stem cell therapies in the clinical setting of allogeneic liver transplantation (for example, the MiSOT-I trial Eudract CT: 2009-017795-25).
The score consists of three independent modalities (set of parameters) that focus on clinically relevant events early after intravenous or intraportal stem cell infusion: pulmonary toxicity, intraportal-infusional toxicity and systemic toxicity. For each modality, values between 0 (no TEAE) and 3 (severe TEAE) were defined. The score was validated retrospectively on a cohort of n=187 recipients of liver allografts not receiving investigational cell therapy between July 2004 and December 2010. These patients represent a control population for further trials. Score values were calculated for days 1, 4, and 10 after liver transplantation.
Grade 3 events were most commonly related to the pulmonary system (3.5% of study cohort on day 4). Almost no systemic-related TEAEs were observed during the study period. The relative frequency of grade 3 events never exceeded 5% over all modalities and time points. A subgroup analysis for grade 3 patients provided no descriptors associated with severe TEAEs.
The MiSOT-I score provides an assessment tool to score specific adverse events that may occur after adherent stem cell therapy in the clinical setting of organ transplantation and is thus a helpful tool to conduct a safety study.
Adherent adult stem cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; Multipotent adult progenitor cells; Solid organ transplantation; Immunotherapy; Scoring adverse events; Phase I trial
Liver transplantation is the definitive treatment for many end-stage liver diseases. However, the life-long immunosuppression needed to prevent graft rejection causes clinically significant side effects. Cellular immunomodulatory therapies may allow the dose of immunosuppressive drugs to be reduced. In the current protocol, we propose to complement immunosuppressive pharmacotherapy with third-party multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs), a culture-selected population of adult adherent stem cells derived from bone marrow that has been shown to display potent immunomodulatory and regenerative properties. In animal models, MAPCs reduce the need for pharmacological immunosuppression after experimental solid organ transplantation and regenerate damaged organs.
Patients enrolled in this phase I, single-arm, single-center safety and feasibility study (n = 3-24) will receive 2 doses of third-party MAPCs after liver transplantation, on days 1 and 3, in addition to a calcineurin-inhibitor-free "bottom-up" immunosuppressive regimen with basiliximab, mycophenolic acid, and steroids. The study objective is to evaluate the safety and clinical feasibility of MAPC administration in this patient cohort. The primary endpoint of the study is safety, assessed by standardized dose-limiting toxicity events. One secondary endpoint is the time until first biopsy-proven acute rejection, in order to collect first evidence of efficacy. Dose escalation (150, 300, 450, and 600 million MAPCs) will be done according to a 3 + 3 classical escalation design (4 groups of 3-6 patients each).
If MAPCs are safe for patients undergoing liver transplantation in this study, a phase II/III trial will be conducted to assess their clinical efficacy.
Activating transcription factor-3 (ATF3) is involved in the complex process of cellular stress response. However, its exact role in cancer is discussed controversially because both tumor suppressive and oncogenic effects have been described. Here we followed-up on our previous observation that inhibition of Hsp90 may increase ATF3 expression and sought to determine the role of ATF3 in colon cancer.
Regulation of ATF3 was determined in cancer cells using signaling inhibitors and a heat-shock protein-90 (Hsp90) antagonist. Human HCT116 cancer cells were stably transfected with an ATF3-shRNA or a luciferase-shRNA expression plasmid and alterations in cell motility were assessed in migration assays. The impact of ATF3 down-regulation on cancer growth and metastasis were investigated in a subcutaneous tumor model, a model of hepatic tumor growth and in a model of peritoneal carcinomatosis. Human colon cancer tissues were analyzed for ATF3 expression.
The results show that therapeutic Hsp90 inhibition substantially up-regulates the expression of ATF3 in various cancer cells, including colon, gastric and pancreatic cancer. This effect was evident both in vitro and in vivo. RNAi mediated knock-down of ATF3 in HCT116 colon cancer cells significantly increased cancer cell migration in vitro. Moreover, in xenogenic mouse models, ATF3 knock-down promoted subcutaneous tumor growth and hepatic metastasis, as well as peritoneal carcinomatosis. Importantly, ATF3 expression was lower in human colon cancer specimens, as compared to corresponding normal surrounding tissues, suggesting that ATF3 may represent a down-regulated tumor suppressor in colon cancer.
In conclusion, ATF3 down-regulation in colon cancer promotes tumor growth and metastasis. Considering that blocking Hsp90 induces ATF3 expression, Hsp90 inhibition may represent a valid strategy to treat metastatic colon cancer by up-regulating this anti-metastatic transcription factor.
Patients undergoing liver transplantation with preexisting renal dysfunction are prone to further renal impairment with the early postoperative use of Calcineurin-inhibitors. However, there is only little scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of de novo CNI free "bottom-up" regimens in patients with impaired renal function undergoing liver transplantation. This is a single-center study pilot-study (PATRON07) investigating safety and efficacy of CNI-free, "bottom-up" immunosuppressive (IS) strategy in patients undergoing liver transplantation (LT) with renal impairment prior to LT.
Patients older than 18 years with renal impairment at the time of liver transplantation eGFR < 50 ml/min and/or serum creatinine levels > 1.5 mg/dL will be included. Patients in will receive a CNI-free combination therapy (basiliximab, MMF, steroids and delayed Sirolimus). Primary endpoint is the incidence of steroid resistant acute rejection within the first 30 days after LT. The study is designed as prospective two-step trial requiring a maximum of 29 patients. In the first step, 9 patients will be included. If 8 or more patients show no signs of biopsy proven steroid resistant rejection, additional 20 patients will be included. If in the second step a total of 27 or more patients reach the primary endpoint the regimen is regarded to be safe and efficient.
If a CNI-free-"bottom-up" IS strategy is safe and effective, this may be an innovative concept in contrast to classic top-down strategies that could improve the patient short and long-time renal function as well as overall complications and survival after LT. The results of PATRON07 may be the basis for a large multicenter RCT investigating the new "bottom-up" immunosuppressive strategy in patients with poor renal function prior to LT.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) represents a highly vascularized tumor entity and the process of angiogenesis is essential for the growth of HCC. Importantly, the pro-angiogenic transcription factors HIF-1α and STAT3 have been implicated in HCC progression, thus representing interesting targets for molecular targeted therapy. We hypothesized that therapeutic inhibition of HIF-1α could be achieved by using a novel tubulin-binding agent (ENMD-1198). ENMD-1198 is an analog of 2-methoxyestradiol (2ME2) with antiproliferative and antiangiogenic activity.
The human HCC cell lines HUH-7 and HepG2 were used for experiments. Effects of ENMD-1198 on constitutive and inducible (hypoxia, growth factors) activation of signaling cascades, including HIF-1α and STAT3, were investigated by Western blotting. Changes in VEGF expression were determined by real-time PCR. Effects of ENMD-1198 on cancer cell migration and invasion were evaluated in in vitro-assays. The growth-inhibitory effects of ENMD-1198 (200 mg/kg/day) were determined in a subcutaneous tumor model (HUH-7).
ENMD-1198 inhibited the phosphorylation of MAPK/Erk, PI-3K/Akt and FAK. Moreover, activation of HIF-1α and STAT3 was dramatically reduced by ENMD-1198, which resulted in lower VEGF mRNA expression (P < 0.05). In addition, tumor cell migratory and invasive properties were significantly inhibited (P < 0.05, for both). In vivo, treatment with ENMD-1198 led to a significant reduction in tumor growth, tumor vascularization, and numbers of proliferating tumor cells (P < 0.05 for all).
The novel microtubule destabilizing agent ENMD-1198 is suitable for inhibiting HIF-1α and STAT3 in human HCC cells and leads to reduced tumor growth and vascularization in vivo. Hence, inhibition of HIF-1α and STAT3 could prove valuable for therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma.