ErbB2/HER2-Specific NK Cells for Targeted Therapy of Glioblastoma

Congcong Zhang, Michael C. Burger, Lukas Jennewein, Sabrina Genßler, Kurt Schönfeld, Pia Zeiner, Elke Hattingen, Patrick N. Harter, Michel Mittelbronn, Torsten Tonn, Joachim P. Steinbach, Winfried S. Wels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

282 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and malignant intracranial tumor in adults and currently incurable. To specifically target natural killer (NK) cell activity to GBM, we employed NK-92/5.28.z cells that are continuously expanding human NK cells expressing an ErbB2-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). Methods: ErbB2 expression in 56 primary tumors, four primary cell cultures, and seven established cell lines was assessed by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry. Cell killing activity of NK-92/5.28.z cells was analyzed in in vitro cytotoxicity assays. In vivo antitumor activity was evaluated in NOD-SCID IL2Rγnull (NSG) mice carrying orthotopic human GBM xenografts (6 to 11 mice per group) and C57BL/6 mice carrying subcutaneous and orthotopic ErbB2-expressing murine GBM tumors (5 to 8 mice per group). Statistical tests were two-sided. Results: We found elevated ErbB2 protein expression in 41% of primary GBM samples and in the majority of GBM cell lines investigated. In in vitro assays, NK-92/5.28.z in contrast to untargeted NK-92 cells lysed all ErbB2-positive established and primary GBM cells analyzed. Potent in vivo antitumor activity of NK-92/5.28.z was observed in orthotopic GBM xenograft models in NSG mice, leading to a marked extension of symptom-free survival upon repeated stereotactic injection of CAR NK cells into the tumor area (median survival of 200.5 days upon treatment with NK-92/5.28.z vs 73 days upon treatment with parental NK-92 cells, P <. 001). In immunocompetent mice, local therapy with NK-92/5.28.z cells resulted in cures of transplanted syngeneic GBM in four of five mice carrying subcutaneous tumors and five of eight mice carrying intracranial tumors, induction of endogenous antitumor immunity, and long-term protection against tumor rechallenge at distant sites. Conclusions: Our data demonstrate the potential of ErbB2-specific NK-92/5.28.z cells for adoptive immunotherapy of glioblastoma, justifying evaluation of this approach for the treatment of ErbB2-positive GBM in clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


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