Background Cytokine-Induced Killer (CIK) cells are ex vivo expanded T cells with NK cell phenotype. They express both CD3 and CD56 antigens, and exert a potent antitumor activity against a variety of tumors. Several clinical trials demonstrated the safety and the feasibility of CIK cell therapy, with very low side effects and minimal graft-versus-host toxicity. In this study, we developed a GMP-compliant protocol for robust large-scale expansion of CIK cells using G-Rex® gas-permeable static culture flasks.
Materials and Methods CIK cells were obtained by stimulating healthy donor PBMCs with GMP-grade IFN-γ, IL-2 and CD3 mAbs, and were cultured in G-Rex6® or G-Rex®6M well plates. CIK cells in G-Rex6® were split only once at day 7 to reduce cell density, whereas the number of CIK cells culterd in G-Rex®6M was not adjusted. In both culture conditions, fresh IL-2 was provided every 3–4 days. We compared these two culture protocols with the culture in standard flasks. Phenotype was analyzed by flow cytometry and cytotoxicity was assessed against several tumor cell lines by calcein-release assay.
Results CIK cells cultured in G-Rex6® well plates showed an outstanding cell expansion compared to G-Rex®6M well plates or standard culture flasks, with a 400-fold expansion and a mean of 109 total cells obtained per single well in 14 days, starting from just 2.5 × 106 cells per well. Moreover, the cultures in G-Rex6® were characterized by an higher percentage of CD3+CD56+ cells, as compared to G-Rex®6M or standard culture flasks. Cells cultured in all devices had a comparable expression of NKG2D, NKp30, NKp44, 2B4 receptors. Importantly, CIK cells expanded in G-Rex®6 were as cytotoxic as cells expanded in standard culture flasks. Conversely, CIK cells cultured in G-Rex®6M showed a remarkable reduction of cytotoxicity against tumor cell targets, thus suggesting that cell density during expansion could affect CIK cell activity.
Conclusions We propose a GMP-compliant protocol for robust large-scale production of CIK cells. G-Rex® system allows to obtain large amounts of CIK cells highly enriched in the CD3+CD56+ subset and endowed with high cytotoxic activity; this can be accomplished with just a single cell culture split at day 7, which dramatically reduces the culture manipulation as compared to the standard culture flasks. Notably, this strategy can be further and easily scalable to produce CIK cells for clinical immunotherapy applications.
Disclosure Information A. Ventura: None. P. Palmerini: None. A. Dalla Pietà: None. R. Sommaggio: None. G. Astori: None. K. Chieregato: None. M. Tisi: None. C. Visco: None. O. Perbellini: None. M. Ruggeri: None. E. Cappuzzello: None. A. Rosato: None.
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