T Cell-Activating Mesenchymal Stem Cells as a Biotherapeutic for HCC

Arpad Szoor, Abishek Vaidya, Mireya Paulina Velasquez, Zhuyong Mei, Daniel L. Galvan, David Torres, Adrian Gee, Andras Heczey, Stephen Gottschalk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The outcome for advanced stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains poor, highlighting the need for novel therapies. Genetically modified mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are actively being explored as cancer therapeutics due to their inherent ability to migrate to tumor sites. We reasoned that MSCs can be genetically modified to redirect T cells to Glypican-3 (GPC3)+ HCC, and genetically modified these with viral vectors encoding a GPC3/CD3 bispecific T cell engager (GPC3-ENG), a bispecifc T cell engager specific for an irrelevant antigen (EGFRvIII), and/or costimulatory molecules (CD80 and 41BBL). Coculture of GPC3+ cells, GPC3-ENG MSCs, and T cells resulted in T cell activation, as judged by interferon γ (IFNγ) production and killing of tumor cells by T cells. Modification of GPC3-ENG MSCs with CD80 and 41BBL was required for antigen-dependent interleukin-2 (IL-2) production by T cells and resulted in faster tumor cell killing by redirected T cells. In vivo, GPC3-ENG MSCs ± costimulatory molecules had antitumor activity in the HUH7 HCC xenograft model, resulting in a survival advantage. In conclusion, MSCs genetically modified to express GPC3-ENG ± costimulatory molecules redirect T cells to GPC3+ tumor cells and have potent antitumor activity. Thus, further preclinical exploration of our modified approach to GPC3-targeted immunotherapy for HCC is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Therapy Oncolytics
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • GPC3
  • bispecific antibody
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • immunotherapy


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