, Volume 58, Issue 10, pp 1647-1655
Date: 13 Feb 2009

Recombinant bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) expressing interferon-alpha 2B enhances human mononuclear cell cytotoxicity against bladder cancer cell lines in vitro

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The proper induction of cellular immunity is required for effective bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) immunotherapy of bladder cancer. It has been known that BCG stimulation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) leads to the generation of effector cells cytotoxic to bladder cancer cells in vitro. To improve BCG therapy, we previously developed human interferon (IFN)-α 2B secreting recombinant (r) BCG (rBCG-IFN-α). We demonstrated that rBCG-IFN-α augmented T helper type 1 (Th1) cytokine IFN-γ production by PBMC. In this study, we further investigated whether rBCG-IFN-α could also enhance PBMC cytotoxicity toward bladder cancer cells.

Materials and methods

PBMC were prepared from healthy individuals, left alone or stimulated with rBCG-IFN-α or control MV261 BCG, and used as effector cells in 51Cr-release assays. Human bladder cancer cell lines T24, J82, 5637, TCCSUP, and UMUC-3 were used as target cells. To determine the role of secreted rIFN-α as well as endogenously expressed IFN-γ and IL-2 in inducing the cytotoxicity, PBMC were stimulated with rBCG-IFN-α in the presence of neutralizing antibodies to IFN-α, IFN-γ or IL-2. To determine the role of natural killer (NK) and CD8+ T cells in inducing the cytotoxicity, both cell types were isolated after BCG stimulation of PBMC and used as effector cells in 51Cr-release assays.


Non-stimulated PBMC showed basal levels of cytotoxicity against all target cell lines tested. MV261 BCG increased the PBMC cytotoxicity by 1.8- to 4.2-fold. rBCG-IFN-α further increased the PBMC cytotoxicity by up to 2-fold. Elevated production of IFN-γ and IL-2 by PBMC was observed after rBCG-IFN-α stimulation. Blockage of IFN-α, IFN-γ or IL-2 by neutralizing antibodies during rBCG-IFN-α stimulation reduced or abolished the induction of PBMC cytotoxicity. Both NK and CD8+ T cells were found to be responsible for the enhanced PBMC cytotoxicity induced by rBCG-IFN-α with the former cell type being more predominant.


rBCG-IFN-α is an improved BCG agent that induces enhanced PBMC cytotoxicity against bladder cancer cells in vitro. This rBCG strain may serve as an alternative to BCG for the treatment of superficial bladder cancer.