Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 64, Issue 7, pp 831–842 | Cite as

Engineering monocyte-derived dendritic cells to secrete interferon-α enhances their ability to promote adaptive and innate anti-tumor immune effector functions

  • Yannick Willemen
  • Johan M. J. Van den Bergh
  • Eva Lion
  • Sébastien Anguille
  • Vicky A. E. Roelandts
  • Heleen H. Van Acker
  • Steven D. I. Heynderickx
  • Barbara M. H. Stein
  • Marc Peeters
  • Carl G. Figdor
  • Viggo F. I. Van Tendeloo
  • I. Jolanda de Vries
  • Gosse J. Adema
  • Zwi N. Berneman
  • Evelien L. J. Smits
Original Article


Dendritic cell (DC) vaccination has demonstrated potential in clinical trials as a new effective cancer treatment, but objective and durable clinical responses are confined to a minority of patients. Interferon (IFN)-α, a type-I IFN, can bolster anti-tumor immunity by restoring or increasing the function of DCs, T cells and natural killer (NK) cells. Moreover, type-I IFN signaling on DCs was found to be essential in mice for tumor rejection by the innate and adaptive immune system. Targeted delivery of IFN-α by DCs to immune cells could boost the generation of anti-tumor immunity, while avoiding the side effects frequently associated with systemic administration. Naturally circulating plasmacytoid DCs, major producers of type-I IFN, were already shown capable of inducing tumor antigen-specific T cell responses in cancer patients without severe toxicity, but their limited number complicates their use in cancer vaccination. In the present work, we hypothesized that engineering easily generated human monocyte-derived mature DCs to secrete IFN-α using mRNA electroporation enhances their ability to promote adaptive and innate anti-tumor immunity. Our results show that IFN-α mRNA electroporation of DCs significantly increases the stimulation of tumor antigen-specific cytotoxic T cell as well as anti-tumor NK cell effector functions in vitro through high levels of IFN-α secretion. Altogether, our findings mark IFN-α mRNA-electroporated DCs as potent inducers of both adaptive and innate anti-tumor immunity and pave the way for clinical trial evaluation in cancer patients.


Dendritic cells Cytotoxic T cells Natural killer cells Interferon-alpha mRNA electroporation Cancer immunotherapy 



7-Amino actinomycin D


Analysis of variance


Carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester


Dendritic cell




Fetal bovine serum


Human leukocyte antigen






Iscove’s modified Dulbecco’s medium


Monoclonal antibody


Mixed lymphocyte reaction


Natural killer


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells




Propidium iodide


Roswell Park Memorial Institute


Wilms’ tumor 1



The authors would like to thank Maaike W.G. Looman for excellent technical advice. This work was supported in part by grants from the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF; 2009-4402), the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO), the Foundation against Cancer (STK), and the Methusalem program of the Flemish Government (attributed to Prof. H. Goossens). Y. Willemen is a PhD fellow of the agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT). E.L.J. Smits was supported by an FWO postdoctoral fellowship and a training grant from the Belgian Hematological Society. S. Anguille was funded by an Emmanuel van der Schueren grant from the Flemish League against Cancer (VLK).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

262_2015_1688_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (679 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 679 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yannick Willemen
    • 1
  • Johan M. J. Van den Bergh
    • 1
  • Eva Lion
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sébastien Anguille
    • 1
  • Vicky A. E. Roelandts
    • 1
  • Heleen H. Van Acker
    • 1
  • Steven D. I. Heynderickx
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barbara M. H. Stein
    • 2
  • Marc Peeters
    • 3
  • Carl G. Figdor
    • 4
  • Viggo F. I. Van Tendeloo
    • 1
  • I. Jolanda de Vries
    • 4
    • 5
  • Gosse J. Adema
    • 4
  • Zwi N. Berneman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Evelien L. J. Smits
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of Experimental Hematology, Vaccine and Infectious Disease InstituteUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.Center for Cell Therapy and Regenerative MedicineAntwerp University HospitalEdegemBelgium
  3. 3.Center for Oncological ResearchUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Tumor Immunology, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life SciencesRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Medical OncologyRadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands

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