The clinical use of adoptive immunotherapy with tumor-reactive T cells to treat established cancers is limited in part by the poor in vivo survival and function of the transferred T cells. Although administration of exogenous cytokines such as IL-2 can promote T cell survival, such strategies have many nonspecific activities and are often associated with toxicity. We show here that abrogating expression of Casitas B-lineage lymphoma b (Cbl-b), a negative regulator of lymphocyte activation, in tumor-reactive CD8+ T cells expanded ex vivo increased the efficacy of adoptive immunotherapy of disseminated leukemia in mice. Mechanistically, Cbl-b abrogation bypassed the requirement for exogenous IL-2 administration for tumor eradication in vivo. In addition, CD8+ T cells lacking Cbl-b demonstrated a lower threshold for activation, better survival following target recognition and stimulation, and enhanced proliferative responses as a result of both IL-2 - dependent and - independent pathways. Importantly, siRNA knockdown of Cbl-b in human CD8 +CD28- effector T cell clones similarly restored IL-2 production and proliferation following target recognition independent of exogenous IL-2, enhanced IFN-γ production, and increased target avidity. Thus, abrogating Cbl-b expression in effector T cells may improve the efficacy of adoptive therapy of some human malignancies.
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