The therapeutic efficacy of adoptive immunotherapy of cancer has been shown to positively correlate with the dose of tumor-immune T cells transferred. Therefore, the success of this therapy is critically dependent on the ability to procure large numbers of functionally active T cells. Previous studies in animal models have shown that the limited therapeutic efficacy of a small number of immune T cells can be greatly enhanced by expansion of T cells in vitro to greater numbers before transfer in vivo. Optimal regimens for T cell expansion in vitro have generally employed the use of intermittent stimulation of the TCR with specific Ag followed by exogenous IL-2. The use of IL-2 alone does not provide for requisite episodic up-regulation of IL-2R. Stimulation of the invariant CD3 portion of the TCR/CD3 complex with antibody to CD3 (anti-CD3) represents an alternative method of up-regulating IL-2R and has been used to nonspecifically induce the growth of Ag-specific T cell lines and clones long-term in vitro with maintenance of function and specificity. The current study examined whether resting T cell populations containing small numbers of memory tumor-specific T cells could be rendered more effective in tumor therapy by nonspecific expansion in vitro with anti-CD3 plus IL-2. Spleens from C57BL/6 mice previously immunized to FBL-3, a syngeneic virus-induced leukemia, were nonspecifically stimulated with anti-CD3 plus IL-2. The resultant T cells were expanded in number, were nonlytic to FBL-3 but retained the ability to become lytic upon specific stimulation by FBL-3, and were effective in specific tumor therapy. The Ag-specific anti-tumor immune function declined on a per cell basis after each cycle of anti-CD3-induced T cell expansion. However, the approach resulted in a substantial increase in total T cell number and an overall net increase in the function of the effector T cell population. Thus, stimulation of tumor-immune T cell populations with anti-CD3 plus IL-2 represents a nonspecific method for expanding the number of specific effector T cells for cancer therapy.

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