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Semiallogenic fusions of MSI+ tumor cells and activated B cells induce MSI-specific T cell responses

Yvette Garbe12, Ulrike Klier3 and Michael Linnebacher3*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Applied Tumor Biology, Ruprecht-Karls University, Heidelberg, Germany

2 OncoRay - National Center of Radiation Research in Oncology, Medical Faculty Carl Gustav Carus, TU Dresden, Germany

3 Molecular Oncology and Immunotherapy, Department of General Surgery, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:410  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-410

Published: 26 September 2011



Various strategies have been developed to transfer tumor-specific antigens into antigen presenting cells in order to induce cytotoxic T cell responses against tumor cells. One approach uses cellular vaccines based on fusions of autologous antigen presenting cells and allogeneic tumor cells. The fusion cells combine antigenicity of the tumor cell with optimal immunostimulatory capacity of the antigen presenting cells.

Microsatellite instability caused by mutational inactivation of DNA mismatch repair genes results in translational frameshifts when affecting coding regions. It has been shown by us and others that these mutant proteins lead to the presentation of immunogenic frameshift peptides that are - in principle - recognized by a multiplicity of effector T cells.


We chose microsatellite instability-induced frameshift antigens as ideal to test for induction of tumor specific T cell responses by semiallogenic fusions of microsatellite instable carcinoma cells with CD40-activated B cells. Two fusion clones of HCT116 with activated B cells were selected for stimulation of T cells autologous to the B cell fusion partner. Outgrowing T cells were phenotyped and tested in functional assays.


The fusion clones expressed frameshift antigens as well as high amounts of MHC and costimulatory molecules. Autologous T cells stimulated with these fusions were predominantly CD4+, activated, and reacted specifically against the fusion clones and also against the tumor cell fusion partner. Interestingly, a response toward 6 frameshift-derived peptides (of 14 tested) could be observed.


Cellular fusions of MSI+ carcinoma cells and activated B cells combine the antigen-presenting capacity of the B cell with the antigenic repertoire of the carcinoma cell. They present frameshift-derived peptides and can induce specific and fully functional T cells recognizing not only fusion cells but also the carcinoma cells. These hybrid cells may have great potential for cellular immunotherapy and this approach should be further analyzed in preclinical as well as clinical trials. Moreover, this is the first report on the induction of frameshift-specific T cell responses without the use of synthetic peptides.

Cell fusion; frameshift antigens; microsatellite instability; T cell epitopes