Internet for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Communities
| Newsletter | Advertising |
 
 
 

  

Pharm/Biotech
Resources

Outsourcing Guide

Cont. Education

Software/Reports

Training Courses

Web Seminars

Jobs

Buyer's Guide

Home Page

Pharm Patents /
Licensing

Pharm News

Federal Register

Pharm Stocks

FDA Links

FDA Warning Letters

FDA Doc/cGMP

Pharm/Biotech Events

Consultants

Advertiser Info

Newsletter Subscription

Web Links

Suggestions

Site Map
 

 
   

 

  Pharmaceutical Patents  

 

Title:  Compositions and method for WT1 specific immunotherapy
United States Patent: 
7,329,410
Issued: 
February 12, 2008

Inventors: 
Gaiger; Alexander (Seattle, WA), Cheever; Martin A. (Mercer Island, WA)
Assignee: 
Corixa Corporation (Hamilton, MT), University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Appl. No.: 
09/685,830
Filed: 
October 9, 2000


 

Woodbury College's Master of Science in Law


Abstract

A method for enhancing or inducing an immune response to WT1 is disclosed. In particular, the method comprises administering to a patient an immunogenic composition comprising an isolated polypeptide consisting of amino acids 1-249 of WT1 and a non-specific immune response enhancer.

Description of the Invention

The present invention is generally directed to compositions and methods for the immunotherapy and diagnosis of malignant diseases. The compositions described herein may include WT1 polypeptides, WT1 polynucleotides, antigen-presenting cells (APC, e.g., dendritic cells) that express a WT1 polypeptide, agents such as antibodies that bind to a WT1 polypeptide and/or immune system cells (e.g., T cells) specific for WT1. WT1 Polypeptides of the present invention generally comprise at least a portion of a Wilms Tumor gene product (WT1) or a variant thereof. Nucleic acid sequences of the subject invention generally comprise a DNA or RNA sequence that encodes all or a portion of such a polypeptide, or that is complementary to such a sequence. Antibodies are generally immune system proteins, or antigen-binding fragments thereof, that are capable of binding to a portion of a WT1 polypeptide. T cells that may be employed within such compositions are generally T cells (e.g., CD4.sup.+ and/or CD8.sup.+) that are specific for a WT1 polypeptide. Certain methods described herein further employ antigen-presenting cells that express a WT1 polypeptide as provided herein.

The present invention is based on the discovery that an immune response raised against a Wilms Tumor (WT) gene product (e.g., WT1) can provide prophylactic and/or therapeutic benefit for patients afflicted with malignant diseases characterized by increased WT1 gene expression. Such diseases include, but are not limited to, leukemias (e.g., acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and childhood ALL), as well as many cancers such as lung, breast, thyroid and gastrointestinal cancers and melanomas. The WT1 gene was originally identified and isolated on the basis of a cytogenetic deletion at chromosome 11p13 in patients with Wilms' tumor (see Call et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,350,840). The gene consists of 10 exons and encodes a zinc finger transcription factor, and sequences of mouse and human WT1 proteins are provided in FIG. 1 and SEQ ID NOs: 319 and 320 (see Original Patent).

WT1 Polypeptides

Within the context of the present invention, a WT1 polypeptide is a polypeptide that comprises at least an immunogenic portion of a native WT1 (i.e., a WT1 protein expressed by an organism that is not genetically modified), or a variant thereof, as described herein. A WT1 polypeptide may be of any length, provided that it comprises at least an immunogenic portion of a native protein or a variant thereof. In other words, a WT1 polypeptide may be an oligopeptide (i.e., consisting of a relatively small number of amino acid residues, such as 8-10 residues, joined by peptide bonds), a full length WT1 protein (e.g., present within a human or non-human animal, such as a mouse) or a polypeptide of intermediate size. Within certain embodiments, the use of WT1 polypeptides that contain a small number of consecutive amino acid residues of a native WT1 polypeptide is preferred. Such polypeptides are preferred for certain uses in which the generation of a T cell response is desired. For example, such a WT1 polypeptide may contain less than 23, preferably no more than 18, and more preferably no more than 15 consecutive amino acid residues, of a native WT1 polypeptide. Polypeptides comprising nine consecutive amino acid residues of a native WT1 polypeptide are generally suitable for such purposes. Additional sequences derived from the native protein and/or heterologous sequences may be present within any WT1 polypeptide, and such sequences may (but need not) possess further immunogenic or antigenic properties. Polypeptides as provided herein may further be associated (covalently or noncovalently) with other polypeptide or non-polypeptide compounds.

An "immunogenic portion," as used herein is a portion of a polypeptide that is recognized (i.e., specifically bound) by a B-cell and/or T-cell surface antigen receptor. Certain preferred immunogenic portions bind to an MHC class I or class II molecule. As used herein, an immunogenic portion is said to "bind to" an MHC class I or class II molecule if such binding is detectable using any assay known in the art. For example, the ability of a polypeptide to bind to MHC class I may be evaluated indirectly by monitoring the ability to promote incorporation of .sup.125I labeled .beta.2-microglobulin (.beta.2m) into MHC class I/.beta.2 m/peptide heterotrimeric complexes (see Parker et al., J. Immunol. 152:163, 1994). Alternatively, functional peptide competition assays that are known in the art may be employed. Certain immunogenic portions have one or more of the sequences recited within one or more of Tables II-XIV (see Original Patent). Representative immunogenic portions include, but are not limited to, RDLNALLPAVPSLGGGG (human WT1 residues 6-22; SEQ ID NO:1), PSQASSGQARMFPNAPYLPSCLE (human and mouse WT1 residues 117-139; SEQ ID NOs: 2 and 3 respectively), GATLKGVAAGSSSSVKWTE (human WT1 residues 244-262; SEQ ID NO:4), GATLKGVAA (human WT1 residues 244-252; SEQ ID NO:88), CMTWNQMNL (human and mouse WT1 residues 235-243; SEQ ID NOs: 49 and 258 respectively), SCLESQPTI (mouse WT1 residues 136-144; SEQ ID NO:296), SCLESQPAI (human WT1 residues 136-144; SEQ ID NO:198), NLYQMTSQL (human and mouse WT1 residues 225-233; SEQ ID NOs: 147 and 284 respectively); ALLPAVSSL (mouse WT1 residues 10-18; SEQ ID NO:255); or RMFPNAPYL (human and mouse WT1 residues 126-134; SEQ ID NOs: 185 and 293 respectively). Further immunogenic portions are provided herein, and others may generally be identified using well known techniques, such as those summarized in Paul, Fundamental Immunology, 3rd ed., 243-247 (Raven Press, 1993) and references cited therein. Representative techniques for identifying immunogenic portions include screening polypeptides for the ability to react with antigen-specific antisera and/or T-cell lines or clones. An immunogenic portion of a native WT1 polypeptide is a portion that reacts with such antisera and/or T-cells at a level that is not substantially less than the reactivity of the full length WT1 (e.g., in an ELISA and/or T-cell reactivity assay). In other words, an immunogenic portion may react within such assays at a level that is similar to or greater than the reactivity of the full length polypeptide. Such screens may generally be performed using methods well known to those of ordinary skill in the art, such as those described in Harlow and Lane, Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1988.

Alternatively, immunogenic portions may be identified using computer analysis, such as the Tsites program (see Rothbard and Taylor, EMBO J. 7:93-100, 1988; Deavin et al., Mol. Immunol. 33:145-155, 1996), which searches for peptide motifs that have the potential to elicit Th responses. CTL peptides with motifs appropriate for binding to murine and human class I or class II MHC may be identified according to BIMAS (Parker et al., J. Immunol. 152:163, 1994) and other HLA peptide binding prediction analyses. To confirm immunogenicity, a peptide may be tested using an HLA A2 transgenic mouse model and/or an in vitro stimulation assay using dendritic cells, fibroblasts or peripheral blood cells.

As noted above, a composition may comprise a variant of a native WT1 protein. A polypeptide "variant," as used herein, is a polypeptide that differs from a native polypeptide in one or more substitutions, deletions, additions and/or insertions, such that the immunogenicity of the polypeptide is retained (i.e., the ability of the variant to react with antigen-specific antisera and/or T-cell lines or clones is not substantially diminished relative to the native polypeptide). In other words, the ability of a variant to react with antigen-specific antisera and/or T-cell lines or clones may be enhanced or unchanged, relative to the native polypeptide, or may be diminished by less than 50%, and preferably less than 20%, relative to the native polypeptide. Such variants may generally be identified by modifying one of the above polypeptide sequences and evaluating the reactivity of the modified polypeptide with antisera and/or T-cells as described herein. It has been found, within the context of the present invention, that a relatively small number of substitutions (e.g., 1 to 3) within an immunogenic portion of a WT1 polypeptide may serve to enhance the ability of the polypeptide to elicit an immune response. Suitable substitutions may generally be identified by using computer programs, as described above, and the effect confirmed based on the reactivity of the modified polypeptide with antisera and/or T-cells as described herein. Accordingly, within certain preferred embodiments, a WT1 polypeptide comprises a variant in which 1 to 3 amino acid resides within an immunogenic portion are substituted such that the ability to react with antigen-specific antisera and/or T-cell lines or clones is statistically greater than that for the unmodified polypeptide. Such substitutions are preferably located within an MHC binding site of the polypeptide, which may be identified as described above. Preferred substitutions allow increased binding to MHC class I or class II molecules.

Certain variants contain conservative substitutions. A "conservative substitution" is one in which an amino acid is substituted for another amino acid that has similar properties, such that one skilled in the art of peptide chemistry would expect the secondary structure and hydropathic nature of the polypeptide to be substantially unchanged. Amino acid substitutions may generally be made on the basis of similarity in polarity, charge, solubility, hydrophobicity, hydrophilicity and/or the amphipathic nature of the residues. For example, negatively charged amino acids include aspartic acid and glutamic acid; positively charged amino acids include lysine and arginine; and amino acids with uncharged polar head groups having similar hydrophilicity values include leucine, isoleucine and valine; glycine and alanine; asparagine and glutamine; and serine, threonine, phenylalanine and tyrosine. Other groups of amino acids that may represent conservative changes include: (1) ala, pro, gly, glu, asp, gln, asn, ser, thr; (2) cys, ser, tyr, thr; (3) val, ile, leu, met, ala, phe; (4) lys, arg, his; and (5) phe, tyr, trp, his. A variant may also, or alternatively, contain nonconservative changes. Variants may also (or alternatively) be modified by, for example, the deletion or addition of amino acids that have minimal influence on the immunogenicity, secondary structure and hydropathic nature of the polypeptide.

In a preferred embodiment, a variant polypeptide of the WT1 N-terminus (amino acids 1-249) is constructed, wherein the variant polypeptide is capable of binding to an antibody that recognizes full-length WT1 and/or WT1 N-terminus polypeptide. A non-limiting example of an antibody is anti WT-1 antibody WT180 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc., Santa Cruz, Calif.).

As noted above, WT1 polypeptides may be conjugated to a signal (or leader) sequence at the N-terminal end of the protein which co-translationally or post-translationally directs transfer of the protein. A polypeptide may also, or alternatively, be conjugated to a linker or other sequence for ease of synthesis, purification or identification of the polypeptide (e.g., poly-His), or to enhance binding of the polypeptide to a solid support. For example, a polypeptide may be conjugated to an immunoglobulin Fc region.

WT1 polypeptides may be prepared using any of a variety of well known techniques. Recombinant polypeptides encoded by a WT1 polynucleotide as described herein may be readily prepared from the polynucleotide. In general, any of a variety of expression vectors known to those of ordinary skill in the art may be employed to express recombinant WT1 polypeptides. Expression may be achieved in any appropriate host cell that has been transformed or transfected with an expression vector containing a DNA molecule that encodes a recombinant polypeptide. Suitable host cells include prokaryotes, yeast and higher eukaryotic cells. Preferably, the host cells employed are E. coli, yeast or a mammalian cell line such as COS or CHO. Supernatants from suitable host/vector systems which secrete recombinant protein or polypeptide into culture media may be first concentrated using a commercially available filter. The concentrate may then be applied to a suitable purification matrix such as an affinity matrix or an ion exchange resin. Finally, one or more reverse phase HPLC steps can be employed to further purify a recombinant polypeptide. Such techniques may be used to prepare native polypeptides or variants thereof. For example, polynucleotides that encode a variant of a native polypeptide may generally be prepared using standard mutagenesis techniques, such as oligonucleotide-directed site-specific mutagenesis, and sections of the DNA sequence may be removed to permit preparation of truncated polypeptides.

Certain portions and other variants may also be generated by synthetic means, using techniques well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. For example, polypeptides having fewer than about 500 amino acids, preferably fewer than about 100 amino acids, and more preferably fewer than about 50 amino acids, may be synthesized. Polypeptides may be synthesized using any of the commercially available solid-phase techniques, such as the Merrifield solid-phase synthesis method, where amino acids are sequentially added to a growing amino acid chain. See Merrifield, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 85:2149-2146, 1963. Equipment for automated synthesis of polypeptides is commercially available from suppliers such as Applied BioSystems, Inc. (Foster City, Calif.), and may be operated according to the manufacturer's instructions.

In general, polypeptides and polynucleotides as described herein are isolated. An "isolated" polypeptide or polynucleotide is one that is removed from its original environment. For example, a naturally-occurring protein is isolated if it is separated from some or all of the coexisting materials in the natural system. Preferably, such polypeptides are at least about 90% pure, more preferably at least about 95% pure and most preferably at least about 99% pure. A polynucleotide is considered to be isolated if, for example, it is cloned into a vector that is not a part of the natural environment.

Within further aspects, the present invention provides mimetics of WT1 polypeptides. Such mimetics may comprise amino acids linked to one or more amino acid mimetics (i.e., one or more amino acids within the WT1 protein may be replaced by an amino acid mimetic) or may be entirely nonpeptide mimetics. An amino acid mimetic is a compound that is conformationally similar to an amino acid such that it can be substituted for an amino acid within a WT1 polypeptide without substantially diminishing the ability to react with antigen-specific antisera and/or T cell lines or clones. A nonpeptide mimetic is a compound that does not contain amino acids, and that has an overall conformation that is similar to a WT1 polypeptide such that the ability of the mimetic to react with WT1-specific antisera and/or T cell lines or clones is not substantially diminished relative to the ability of a WT1 polypeptide. Such mimetics may be designed based on standard techniques (e.g., nuclear magnetic resonance and computational techniques) that evaluate the three dimensional structure of a peptide sequence. Mimetics may be designed where one or more of the side chain functionalities of the WT1 polypeptide are replaced by groups that do not necessarily have the same size or volume, but have similar chemical and/or physical properties which produce similar biological responses. It should be understood that, within embodiments described herein, a mimetic may be substituted for a WT1 polypeptide.

Within other illustrative embodiments, a polypeptide may be a fusion polypeptide that comprises multiple polypeptides as described herein, or that comprises at least one polypeptide as described herein and an unrelated sequence, such as a known tumor protein. A fusion partner may, for example, assist in providing T helper epitopes (an immunological fusion partner), preferably T helper epitopes recognized by humans, or may assist in expressing the protein (an expression enhancer) at higher yields than the native recombinant protein. Certain preferred fusion partners are both immunological and expression enhancing fusion partners. Other fusion partners may be selected so as to increase the solubility of the polypeptide or to enable the polypeptide to be targeted to desired intracellular compartments. Still further fusion partners include affinity tags, which facilitate purification of the polypeptide.

Fusion polypeptides may generally be prepared using standard techniques, including chemical conjugation. Preferably, a fusion polypeptide is expressed as a recombinant polypeptide, allowing the production of increased levels, relative to a non-fused polypeptide, in an expression system. Briefly, DNA sequences encoding the polypeptide components may be assembled separately, and ligated into an appropriate expression vector. The 3' end of the DNA sequence encoding one polypeptide component is ligated, with or without a peptide linker, to the 5' end of a DNA sequence encoding the second polypeptide component so that the reading frames of the sequences are in phase. This permits translation into a single fusion polypeptide that retains the biological activity of both component polypeptides.

A peptide linker sequence may be employed to separate the first and second polypeptide components by a distance sufficient to ensure that each polypeptide folds into its secondary and tertiary structures. Such a peptide linker sequence is incorporated into the fusion polypeptide using standard techniques well known in the art. Suitable peptide linker sequences may be chosen based on the following factors: (1) their ability to adopt a flexible extended conformation; (2) their inability to adopt a secondary structure that could interact with functional epitopes on the first and second polypeptides; and (3) the lack of hydrophobic or charged residues that might react with the polypeptide functional epitopes. Preferred peptide linker sequences contain Gly, Asn and Ser residues. Other near neutral amino acids, such as Thr and Ala may also be used in the linker sequence. Amino acid sequences which may be usefully employed as linkers include those disclosed in Maratea et al., Gene 40:39-46, 1985; Murphy et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83:8258-8262, 1986; U.S. Pat. No. 4,935,233 and U.S. Pat. No. 4,751,180. The linker sequence may generally be from 1 to about 50 amino acids in length. Linker sequences are not required when the first and second polypeptides have non-essential N-terminal amino acid regions that can be used to separate the functional domains and prevent steric interference.

The ligated DNA sequences are operably linked to suitable transcriptional or translational regulatory elements. The regulatory elements responsible for expression of DNA are located only 5' to the DNA sequence encoding the first polypeptides. Similarly, stop codons required to end translation and transcription termination signals are only present 3' to the DNA sequence encoding the second polypeptide.

The fusion polypeptide can comprise a polypeptide as described herein together with an unrelated immunogenic protein, such as an immunogenic protein capable of eliciting a recall response. Examples of such proteins include tetanus, tuberculosis and hepatitis proteins (see, for example, Stoute et al. New Engl. J. Med., 336:86-91, 1997).

In one preferred embodiment, the immunological fusion partner is derived from a Mycobacterium sp., such as a Mycobacterium tuberculosis-derived Ra12 fragment. Ra12 compositions and methods for their use in enhancing the expression and/or immunogenicity of heterologous polynucleotide/polypeptide sequences is described in U.S. Patent Application 60/158,585, now lapsed, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Briefly, Ra12 refers to a polynucleotide region that is a subsequence of a Mycobacterium tuberculosis MTB32A nucleic acid. MTB32A is a serine protease of 32 KD molecular weight encoded by a gene in virulent and avirulent strains of M. tuberculosis. The nucleotide sequence and amino acid sequence of MTB32A have been described (for example, U.S. Patent Application 60/158,585, now lapsed; see also, Skeiky et al., Infection and Immun. (1999) 67:3998-4007, incorporated herein by reference). C-terminal fragments of the MTB32A coding sequence express at high levels and remain as soluble polypeptides throughout the purification process. Moreover, Ra12 may enhance the immunogenicity of heterologous immunogenic polypeptides with which it is fused. One preferred Ra12 fusion polypeptide comprises a 14 KD C-terminal fragment corresponding to amino acid residues 192 to 323 of MTB32A. Other preferred Ra12 polynucleotides generally comprise at least about 15 consecutive nucleotides, at least about 30 nucleotides, at least about 60 nucleotides, at least about 100 nucleotides, at least about 200 nucleotides, or at least about 300 nucleotides that encode a portion of a Ra12 polypeptide. Ra12 polynucleotides may comprise a native sequence (i.e., an endogenous sequence that encodes a Ra12 polypeptide or a portion thereof) or may comprise a variant of such a sequence. Ra12 polynucleotide variants may contain one or more substitutions, additions, deletions and/or insertions such that the biological activity of the encoded fusion polypeptide is not substantially diminished, relative to a fusion polypeptide comprising a native Ra12 polypeptide. Variants preferably exhibit at least about 70% identity, more preferably at least about 80% identity and most preferably at least about 90% identity to a polynucleotide sequence that encodes a native Ra12 polypeptide or a portion thereof.

Within other preferred embodiments, an immunological fusion partner is derived from protein D, a surface protein of the gram-negative bacterium Haemophilus influenza B (WO 91/18926). Preferably, a protein D derivative comprises approximately the first third of the protein (e.g., the first N-terminal 100-110 amino acids), and a protein D derivative may be lipidated. Within certain preferred embodiments, the first 109 residues of a Lipoprotein D fusion partner is included on the N-terminus to provide the polypeptide with additional exogenous T-cell epitopes and to increase the expression level in E. coli (thus functioning as an expression enhancer). The lipid tail ensures optimal presentation of the antigen to antigen presenting cells. Other fusion partners include the non-structural protein from influenzae virus, NS1 (hemaglutinin). Typically, the N-terminal 81 amino acids are used, although different fragments that include T-helper epitopes may be used.

In another embodiment, the immunological fusion partner is the protein known as LYTA, or a portion thereof (preferably a C-terminal portion). LYTA is derived from Streptococcus pneumoniae, which synthesizes an N-acetyl-L-alanine amidase known as amidase LYTA (encoded by the LytA gene; Gene 43:265-292, 1986). LYTA is an autolysin that specifically degrades certain bonds in the peptidoglycan backbone. The C-terminal domain of the LYTA protein is responsible for the affinity to the choline or to some choline analogues such as DEAE. This property has been exploited for the development of E. coli C-LYTA expressing plasmids useful for expression of fusion proteins. Purification of hybrid proteins containing the C-LYTA fragment at the amino terminus has been described (see Biotechnology 10:795-798, 1992). Within a preferred embodiment, a repeat portion of LYTA may be incorporated into a fusion polypeptide. A repeat portion is found in the C-terminal region starting at residue 178. A particularly preferred repeat portion incorporates residues 188-305.

Yet another illustrative embodiment involves fusion polypeptides, and the polynucleotides encoding them, wherein the fusion partner comprises a targeting signal capable of directing a polypeptide to the endosomal/lysosomal compartment, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,633,234. An immunogenic polypeptide of the invention, when fused with this targeting signal, will associate more efficiently with MHC class II molecules and thereby provide enhanced in vivo stimulation of CD4.sup.+ T-cells specific for the polypeptide.

WT1 Polynucleotides

Any polynucleotide that encodes a WT1 polypeptide as described herein is a WT1 polynucleotide encompassed by the present invention. Such polynucleotides may be single-stranded (coding or antisense) or double-stranded, and may be DNA (genomic, cDNA or synthetic) or RNA molecules. Additional coding or non-coding sequences may, but need not, be present within a polynucleotide of the present invention, and a polynucleotide may, but need not, be linked to other molecules and/or support materials.

WT1 polynucleotides may encode a native WT1 protein, or may encode a variant of WT1 as described herein. Polynucleotide variants may contain one or more substitutions, additions, deletions and/or insertions such that the immunogenicity of the encoded polypeptide is not diminished, relative to a native WT1 protein. The effect on the immunogenicity of the encoded polypeptide may generally be assessed as described herein. Preferred variants contain nucleotide substitutions, deletions, insertions and/or additions at no more than 20%, preferably at no more than 10%, of the nucleotide positions that encode an immunogenic portion of a native WT1 sequence. Certain variants are substantially homologous to a native gene, or a portion thereof. Such polynucleotide variants are capable of hybridizing under moderately stringent conditions to a naturally occurring DNA sequence encoding a WT1 polypeptide (or a complementary sequence). Suitable moderately stringent conditions include prewashing in a solution of 5.times.SSC, 0.5% SDS, 1.0 mM EDTA (pH 8.0); hybridizing at 50.degree. C.-65.degree. C., 5.times.SSC, overnight; followed by washing twice at 65.degree. C. for 20 minutes with each of 2.times., 0.5.times. and 0.2.times.SSC containing 0.1% SDS). Such hybridizing DNA sequences are also within the scope of this invention.

It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that, as a result of the degeneracy of the genetic code, there are many nucleotide sequences that encode a WT1 polypeptide. Some of these polynucleotides bear minimal homology to the nucleotide sequence of any native gene. Nonetheless, polynucleotides that vary due to differences in codon usage are specifically contemplated by the present invention.

Once an immunogenic portion of WT1 is identified, as described above, a WT1 polynucleotide may be prepared using any of a variety of techniques. For example, a WT1 polynucleotide may be amplified from cDNA prepared from cells that express WT1. Such polynucleotides may be amplified via polymerase chain reaction (PCR). For this approach, sequence-specific primers may be designed based on the sequence of the immunogenic portion and may be purchased or synthesized. For example, suitable primers for PCR amplification of a human WT1 gene include: first step--P118: 1434-1414: 5' GAG AGT CAG ACT TGA AAG CAGT 3' (SEQ ID NO:5) and P135: 5' CTG AGC CTC AGC AAA TGG GC 3' (SEQ ID NO:6); second step--P136: 5' GAG CAT GCA TGG GCT CCG ACG TGC GGG 3' (SEQ ID NO:7) and P137: 5' GGG GTA CCC ACT GAA CGG TCC CCG A 3' (SEQ ID NO:8). Primers for PCR amplification of a mouse WT1 gene include: first step--P138: 5' TCC GAG CCG CAC CTC ATG 3' (SEQ ID NO:9) and P139: 5' GCC TGG GAT GCT GGA CTG 3' (SEQ ID NO:10), second step--P140: 5' GAG CAT GCG ATG GGT TCC GAC GTG CGG 3' (SEQ ID NO:11) and P141: 5' GGG GTA CCT CAA AGC GCC ACG TGG AGT TT 3' (SEQ ID NO:12).

An amplified portion may then be used to isolate a full length gene from a human genomic DNA library or from a suitable cDNA library, using well known techniques. Alternatively, a full length gene can be constructed from multiple PCR fragments. WT1 polynucleotides may also be prepared by synthesizing oligonucleotide components, and ligating components together to generate the complete polynucleotide.

WT1 polynucleotides may also be synthesized by any method known in the art, including chemical synthesis (e.g., solid phase phosphoramidite chemical synthesis). Modifications in a polynucleotide sequence may also be introduced using standard mutagenesis techniques, such as oligonucleotide-directed site-specific mutagenesis (see Adelman et al., DNA 2:183, 1983). Alternatively, RNA molecules may be generated by in vitro or in vivo transcription of DNA sequences encoding a WT1 polypeptide, provided that the DNA is incorporated into a vector with a suitable RNA polymerase promoter (such as T7 or SP6). Certain portions may be used to prepare an encoded polypeptide, as described herein. In addition, or alternatively, a portion may be administered to a patient such that the encoded polypeptide is generated in vivo (e.g., by transfecting antigen-presenting cells such as dendritic cells with a cDNA construct encoding a WT1 polypeptide, and administering the transfected cells to the patient).

Polynucleotides that encode a WT1 polypeptide may generally be used for production of the polypeptide, in vitro or in vivo. WT1 polynucleotides that are complementary to a coding sequence (i.e., antisense polynucleotides) may also be used as a probe or to inhibit WT1 expression. cDNA constructs that can be transcribed into antisense RNA may also be introduced into cells of tissues to facilitate the production of antisense RNA.

Any polynucleotide may be further modified to increase stability in vivo. Possible modifications include, but are not limited to, the addition of flanking sequences at the 5' and/or 3' ends; the use of phosphorothioate or 2' O-methyl rather than phosphodiesterase linkages in the backbone; and/or the inclusion of nontraditional bases such as inosine, queosine and wybutosine, as well as acetyl-methyl-, thio- and other modified forms of adenine, cytidine, guanine, thymine and uridine.

Nucleotide sequences as described herein may be joined to a variety of other nucleotide sequences using established recombinant DNA techniques. For example, a polynucleotide may be cloned into any of a variety of cloning vectors, including plasmids, phagemids, lambda phage derivatives and cosmids. Vectors of particular interest include expression vectors, replication vectors, probe generation vectors and sequencing vectors. In general, a vector will contain an origin of replication functional in at least one organism, convenient restriction endonuclease sites and one or more selectable markers. Other elements will depend upon the desired use, and will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art.

Within certain embodiments, polynucleotides may be formulated so as to permit entry into a cell of a mammal, and expression therein. Such formulations are particularly useful for therapeutic purposes, as described below. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that there are many ways to achieve expression of a polynucleotide in a target cell, and any suitable method may be employed. For example, a polynucleotide may be incorporated into a viral vector such as, but not limited to, adenovirus, adeno-associated virus, retrovirus, or vaccinia or other pox virus (e.g., avian pox virus). Techniques for incorporating DNA into such vectors are well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. A retroviral vector may additionally transfer or incorporate a gene for a selectable marker (to aid in the identification or selection of transduced cells) and/or a targeting moiety, such as a gene that encodes a ligand for a receptor on a specific target cell, to render the vector target specific. Targeting may also be accomplished using an antibody, by methods known to those of ordinary skill in the art. cDNA constructs within such a vector may be used, for example, to transfect human or animal cell lines for use in establishing WT1 positive tumor models which may be used to perform tumor protection and adoptive immunotherapy experiments to demonstrate tumor or leukemia-growth inhibition or lysis of such cells.

Other therapeutic formulations for polynucleotides include colloidal dispersion systems, such as macromolecule complexes, nanocapsules, microspheres, beads, and lipid-based systems including oil-in-water emulsions, micelles, mixed micelles, and liposomes. A preferred colloidal system for use as a delivery vehicle in vitro and in vivo is a liposome (i.e., an artificial membrane vesicle). The preparation and use of such systems is well known in the art.

Antibodies and Fragments Thereof

The present invention further provides binding agents, such as antibodies and antigen-binding fragments thereof, that specifically bind to a WT1 polypeptide. As used herein, an agent is said to "specifically bind" to a WT1 polypeptide if it reacts at a detectable level (within, for example, an ELISA) with a WT1 polypeptide, and does not react detectably with unrelated proteins under similar conditions. As used herein, "binding" refers to a noncovalent association between two separate molecules such that a "complex" is formed. The ability to bind may be evaluated by, for example, determining a binding constant for the formation of the complex. The binding constant is the value obtained when the concentration of the complex is divided by the product of the component concentrations. In general, two compounds are said to "bind," in the context of the present invention, when the binding constant for complex formation exceeds about 10.sup.3 L/mol. The binding constant maybe determined using methods well known in the art.

Any agent that satisfies the above requirements may be a binding agent. In a preferred embodiment, a binding agent is an antibody or an antigen-binding fragment thereof. Certain antibodies are commercially available from, for example, Santa Cruz Biotechnology (Santa Cruz, Calif.). Alternatively, antibodies may be prepared by any of a variety of techniques known to those of ordinary skill in the art. See, e.g., Harlow and Lane, Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1988. In general, antibodies can be produced by cell culture techniques, including the generation of monoclonal antibodies as described herein, or via transfection of antibody genes into suitable bacterial or mammalian cell hosts, in order to allow for the production of recombinant antibodies. In one technique, an immunogen comprising the polypeptide is initially injected into any of a wide variety of mammals (e.g., mice, rats, rabbits, sheep or goats). In this step, the polypeptides of this invention may serve as the immunogen without modification. Alternatively, particularly for relatively short polypeptides, a superior immune response may be elicited if the polypeptide is joined to a carrier protein, such as bovine serum albumin or keyhole limpet hemocyanin. The immunogen is injected into the animal host, preferably according to a predetermined schedule incorporating one or more booster immunizations, and the animals are bled periodically. Polyclonal antibodies specific for the polypeptide may then be purified from such antisera by, for example, affinity chromatography using the polypeptide coupled to a suitable solid support.

Monoclonal antibodies specific for the antigenic polypeptide of interest may be prepared, for example, using the technique of Kohler and Milstein, Eur. J. Immunol. 6:511-519, 1976, and improvements thereto. Briefly, these methods involve the preparation of immortal cell lines capable of producing antibodies having the desired specificity (i.e., reactivity with the polypeptide of interest). Such cell lines may be produced, for example, from spleen cells obtained from an animal immunized as described above. The spleen cells are then immortalized by, for example, fusion with a myeloma cell fusion partner, preferably one that is syngeneic with the immunized animal. A variety of fusion techniques may be employed. For example, the spleen cells and myeloma cells may be combined with a nonionic detergent for a few minutes and then plated at low density on a selective medium that supports the growth of hybrid cells, but not myeloma cells. A preferred selection technique uses HAT (hypoxanthine, aminopterin, thymidine) selection. After a sufficient time, usually about 1 to 2 weeks, colonies of hybrids are observed. Single colonies are selected and their culture supernatants tested for binding activity against the polypeptide. Hybridomas having high reactivity and specificity are preferred.

Monoclonal antibodies may be isolated from the supernatants of growing hybridoma colonies. In addition, various techniques may be employed to enhance the yield, such as injection of the hybridoma cell line into the peritoneal cavity of a suitable vertebrate host, such as a mouse. Monoclonal antibodies may then be harvested from the ascites fluid or the blood. Contaminants may be removed from the antibodies by conventional techniques, such as chromatography, gel filtration, precipitation, and extraction. The polypeptides of this invention may be used in the purification process in, for example, an affinity chromatography step.

Within certain embodiments, the use of antigen-binding fragments of antibodies may be preferred. Such fragments include Fab fragments, which may be prepared using standard techniques. Briefly, immunoglobulins may be purified from rabbit serum by affinity chromatography on Protein A bead columns (Harlow and Lane, Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1988) and digested by papain to yield Fab and Fc fragments. The Fab and Fc fragments may be separated by affinity chromatography on protein A bead columns.

Monoclonal antibodies and fragments thereof may be coupled to one or more therapeutic agents. Suitable agents in this regard include radioactive tracers and chemotherapeutic agents, which may be used, for example, to purge autologous bone marrow in vitro). Representative therapeutic agents include radionuclides, differentiation inducers, drugs, toxins, and derivatives thereof. Preferred radionuclides include .sup.90Y, .sup.123I, .sup.125I, .sup.131I, .sup.186Re, .sup.188Re, .sup.211At, and .sup.212Bi. Preferred drugs include methotrexate, and pyrimidine and purine analogs. Preferred differentiation inducers include phorbol esters and butyric acid. Preferred toxins include ricin, abrin, diptheria toxin, cholera toxin, gelonin, Pseudomonas exotoxin, Shigella toxin, and pokeweed antiviral protein. For diagnostic purposes, coupling of radioactive agents may be used to facilitate tracing of metastases or to determine the location of WT1-positive tumors.

A therapeutic agent may be coupled (e.g., covalently bonded) to a suitable monoclonal antibody either directly or indirectly (e.g., via a linker group). A direct reaction between an agent and an antibody is possible when each possesses a substituent capable of reacting with the other. For example, a nucleophilic group, such as an amino or sulfhydryl group, on one may be capable of reacting with a carbonyl-containing group, such as an anhydride or an acid halide, or with an alkyl group containing a good leaving group (e.g., a halide) on the other.

Alternatively, it may be desirable to couple a therapeutic agent and an antibody via a linker group. A linker group can function as a spacer to distance an antibody from an agent in order to avoid interference with binding capabilities. A linker group can also serve to increase the chemical reactivity of a substituent on an agent or an antibody, and thus increase the coupling efficiency. An increase in chemical reactivity may also facilitate the use of agents, or functional groups on agents, which otherwise would not be possible.

It will be evident to those skilled in the art that a variety of bifunctional or polyfunctional reagents, both homo- and hetero-functional (such as those described in the catalog of the Pierce Chemical Co., Rockford, Ill.), may be employed as the linker group. Coupling may be effected, for example, through amino groups, carboxyl groups, sulfhydryl groups or oxidized carbohydrate residues. There are numerous references describing such methodology, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,671,958, to Rodwell et al.

Where a therapeutic agent is more potent when free from the antibody portion of the immunoconjugates of the present invention, it may be desirable to use a linker group which is cleavable during or upon internalization into a cell. A number of different cleavable linker groups have been described. The mechanisms for the intracellular release of an agent from these linker groups include cleavage by reduction of a disulfide bond (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,489,710, to Spitler), by irradiation of a photolabile bond (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,625,014, to Senter et al.), by hydrolysis of derivatized amino acid side chains (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,638,045, to Kohn et al.), by serum complement-mediated hydrolysis (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,671,958, to Rodwell et al.), and acid-catalyzed hydrolysis (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,569,789, to Blattler et al.).

It may be desirable to couple more than one agent to an antibody. In one embodiment, multiple molecules of an agent are coupled to one antibody molecule. In another embodiment, more than one type of agent may be coupled to one antibody. Regardless of the particular embodiment, immunoconjugates with more than one agent may be prepared in a variety of ways. For example, more than one agent may be coupled directly to an antibody molecule, or linkers which provide multiple sites for attachment can be used. Alternatively, a carrier can be used. A carrier may bear the agents in a variety of ways, including covalent bonding either directly or via a linker group. Suitable carriers include proteins such as albumins (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,507,234, to Kato et al.), peptides and polysaccharides such as aminodextran (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,699,784, to Shih et al.). A carrier may also bear an agent by noncovalent bonding or by encapsulation, such as within a liposome vesicle (e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,429,008 and 4,873,088). Carriers specific for radionuclide agents include radiohalogenated small molecules and chelating compounds. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,735,792 discloses representative radiohalogenated small molecules and their synthesis. A radionuclide chelate may be formed from chelating compounds that include those containing nitrogen and sulfur atoms as the donor atoms for binding the metal, or metal oxide, radionuclide. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,673,562, to Davison et al. discloses representative chelating compounds and their synthesis.

A variety of routes of administration for the antibodies and immunoconjugates may be used. Typically, administration will be intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous or in the bed of a resected tumor. It will be evident that the precise dose of the antibody/immunoconjugate will vary depending upon the antibody used, the antigen density on the tumor, and the rate of clearance of the antibody.

Also provided herein are anti-idiotypic antibodies that mimic an immunogenic portion of WT1. Such antibodies may be raised against an antibody, or antigen-binding fragment thereof, that specifically binds to an immunogenic portion of WT1, using well known techniques. Anti-idiotypic antibodies that mimic an immunogenic portion of WT1 are those antibodies that bind to an antibody, or antigen-binding fragment thereof, that specifically binds to an immunogenic portion of WT1, as described herein.

T Cells

Immunotherapeutic compositions may also, or alternatively, comprise T cells specific for WT1. Such cells may generally be prepared in vitro or ex vivo, using standard procedures. For example, T cells may be present within (or isolated from) bone marrow, peripheral blood or a fraction of bone marrow or peripheral blood of a mammal, such as a patient, using a commercially available cell separation system, such as the CEPRATE.TM. system, available from CellPro Inc., Bothell Wash. (see also U.S. Pat. No. 5,240,856; U.S. Pat. No. 5,215,926; WO 89/06280; WO 91/16116 and WO 92/07243). Alternatively, T cells may be derived from related or unrelated humans, non-human animals, cell lines or cultures.

T cells may be stimulated with WT1 polypeptide, polynucleotide encoding a WT1 polypeptide and/or an antigen presenting cell (APC) that expresses a WT1 polypeptide. Such stimulation is performed under conditions and for a time sufficient to permit the generation of T cells that are specific for the WT1 polypeptide. Preferably, a WT1 polypeptide or polynucleotide is present within a delivery vehicle, such as a microsphere, to facilitate the generation of antigen-specific T cells. Briefly, T cells, which may be isolated from a patient or a related or unrelated donor by routine techniques (such as by FICOLL.RTM./HYPAQUE.RTM. density gradient centrifugation of peripheral blood lymphocytes), are incubated with WT1 polypeptide. For example, T cells may be incubated in vitro for 2-9 days (typically 4 days) at 37.degree. C. with WT1 polypeptide (e.g., 5 to 25 .mu.g/ml) or cells synthesizing a comparable amount of WT1 polypeptide. It may be desirable to incubate a separate aliquot of a T cell sample in the absence of WT1 polypeptide to serve as a control.

T cells are considered to be specific for a WT1 polypeptide if the T cells kill target cells coated with a WT1 polypeptide or expressing a gene encoding such a polypeptide. T cell specificity may be evaluated using any of a variety of standard techniques. For example, within a chromium release assay or proliferation assay, a stimulation index of more than two fold increase in lysis and/or proliferation, compared to negative controls, indicates T cell specificity. Such assays may be performed, for example, as described in Chen et al., Cancer Res. 54:1065-1070, 1994. Alternatively, detection of the proliferation of T cells may be accomplished by a variety of known techniques. For example, T cell proliferation can be detected by measuring an increased rate of DNA synthesis (e.g., by pulse-labeling cultures of T cells with tritiated thymidine and measuring the amount of tritiated thymidine incorporated into DNA). Other ways to detect T cell proliferation include measuring increases in interleukin-2 (IL-2) production, Ca.sup.2+ flux, or dye uptake, such as 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium. Alternatively, synthesis of lymphokines (such as interferon-gamma) can be measured or the relative number of T cells that can respond to a WT1 polypeptide may be quantified. Contact with a WT1 polypeptide (200 ng/ml-100 .mu.g/ml, preferably 100 ng/ml-25 .mu.g/ml) for 3-7 days should result in at least a two fold increase in proliferation of the T cells and/or contact as described above for 2-3 hours should result in activation of the T cells, as measured using standard cytokine assays in which a two fold increase in the level of cytokine release (e.g., TNF or IFN-.gamma.) is indicative of T cell activation (see Coligan et al., Current Protocols in Immunology, vol. 1, Wiley Interscience (Greene 1998). WT1 specific T cells may be expanded using standard techniques. Within preferred embodiments, the T cells are derived from a patient or a related or unrelated donor and are administered to the patient following stimulation and expansion.

T cells that have been activated in response to a WT1 polypeptide, polynucleotide or WT1-expressing APC may be CD4.sup.+ and/or CD8.sup.+. Specific activation of CD4.sup.+ or CD8.sup.+ T cells may be detected in a variety of ways. Methods for detecting specific T cell activation include detecting the proliferation of T cells, the production of cytokines (e.g., lymphokines), or the generation of cytolytic activity (i.e., generation of cytotoxic T cells specific for WT1). For CD4.sup.+T cells, a preferred method for detecting specific T cell activation is the detection of the proliferation of T cells. For CD8.sup.+ T cells, a preferred method for detecting specific T cell activation is the detection of the generation of cytolytic activity.

For therapeutic purposes, CD4.sup.+ or CD8.sup.+ T cells that proliferate in response to the WT1 polypeptide, polynucleotide or APC can be expanded in number either in vitro or in vivo. Proliferation of such T cells in vitro may be accomplished in a variety of ways. For example, the T cells can be re-exposed to WT1 polypeptide, with or without the addition of T cell growth factors, such as interleukin-2, and/or stimulator cells that synthesize a WT1 polypeptide. The addition of stimulator cells is preferred where generating CD8.sup.+ T cell responses. T cells can be grown to large numbers in vitro with retention of specificity in response to intermittent restimulation with WT1 polypeptide. Briefly, for the primary in vitro stimulation (IVS), large numbers of lymphocytes (e.g., greater than 4.times.10.sup.7) may be placed in flasks with media containing human serum. WT1 polypeptide (e.g., peptide at 10 .mu.g/ml) may be added directly, along with tetanus toxoid (e.g., 5 .mu.g/ml). The flasks may then be incubated (e.g., 37.degree. C. for 7 days). For a second IVS, T cells are then harvested and placed in new flasks with 2-3.times.10.sup.7 irradiated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. WT1 polypeptide (e.g., 10 .mu.g/ml) is added directly. The flasks are incubated at 37.degree. C. for 7 days. On day 2 and day 4 after the second IVS, 2-5 units of interleukin-2 (IL-2) may be added. For a third IVS, the T cells may be placed in wells and stimulated with the individual's own EBV transformed B cells coated with the peptide. IL-2 may be added on days 2 and 4 of each cycle. As soon as the cells are shown to be specific cytotoxic T cells, they may be expanded using a 10 day stimulation cycle with higher IL-2 (20 units) on days 2, 4 and 6.

Alternatively, one or more T cells that proliferate in the presence of WT1 polypeptide can be expanded in number by cloning. Methods for cloning cells are well known in the art, and include limiting dilution. Responder T cells may be purified from the peripheral blood of sensitized patients by density gradient centrifugation and sheep red cell rosetting and established in culture by stimulating with the nominal antigen in the presence of irradiated autologous filler cells. In order to generate CD4.sup.+ T cell lines, WT1 polypeptide is used as the antigenic stimulus and autologous peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) or lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) immortalized by infection with Epstein Barr virus are used as antigen presenting cells. In order to generate CD8.sup.+ T cell lines, autologous antigen-presenting cells transfected with an expression vector which produces WT1 polypeptide may be used as stimulator cells. Established T cell lines may be cloned 2-4 days following antigen stimulation by plating stimulated T cells at a frequency of 0.5 cells per well in 96-well flat-bottom plates with 1.times.10.sup.6 irradiated PBL or LCL cells and recombinant interleukin-2 (rIL2) (50 U/ml). Wells with established clonal growth may be identified at approximately 2-3 weeks after initial plating and restimulated with appropriate antigen in the presence of autologous antigen-presenting cells, then subsequently expanded by the addition of low doses of rIL2 (10 U/ml) 2-3 days following antigen stimulation. T cell clones may be maintained in 24-well plates by periodic restimulation with antigen and rIL2 approximately every two weeks.

Within certain embodiments, allogeneic T-cells may be primed (i.e., sensitized to WT1) in vivo and/or in vitro. Such priming may be achieved by contacting T cells with a WT1 polypeptide, a polynucleotide encoding such a polypeptide or a cell producing such a polypeptide under conditions and for a time sufficient to permit the priming of T cells. In general, T cells are considered to be primed if, for example, contact with a WT1 polypeptide results in proliferation and/or activation of the T cells, as measured by standard proliferation, chromium release and/or cytokine release assays as described herein. A stimulation index of more than two fold increase in proliferation or lysis, and more than three fold increase in the level of cytokine, compared to negative controls, indicates T-cell specificity. Cells primed in vitro may be employed, for example, within a bone marrow transplantation or as donor lymphocyte infusion.

T cells specific for WT1 can kill cells that express WT1 protein. Introduction of genes encoding T-cell receptor (TCR) chains for WT1 are used as a means to quantitatively and qualitatively improve responses to WT1 bearing leukemia and cancer cells. Vaccines to increase the number of T cells that can react to WT1 positive cells are one method of targeting WT1 bearing cells. T cell therapy with T cells specific for WT1 is another method. An alternative method is to introduce the TCR chains specific for WT1 into T cells or other cells with lytic potential. In a suitable embodiment, the TCR alpha and beta chains are cloned out from a WT1 specific T cell line and used for adoptive T cell therapy, such as described in WO96/30516, incorporated herein by reference.

Pharmaceutical Compositions and Vaccines

Within certain aspects, polypeptides, polynucleotides, antibodies and/or T cells may be incorporated into pharmaceutical compositions or vaccines. Alternatively, a pharmaceutical composition may comprise an antigen-presenting cell (e.g., a dendritic cell) transfected with a WT1 polynucleotide such that the antigen presenting cell expresses a WT1 polypeptide. Pharmaceutical compositions comprise one or more such compounds or cells and a physiologically acceptable carrier or excipient. Certain vaccines may comprise one or more such compounds or cells and a non-specific immune response enhancer, such as an adjuvant or a liposome (into which the compound is incorporated). Pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines may additionally contain a delivery system, such as biodegradable microspheres which are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,897,268 and 5,075,109. Pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines within the scope of the present invention may also contain other compounds, which may be biologically active or inactive.

Within certain embodiments, pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines are designed to elicit T cell responses specific for a WT1 polypeptide in a patient, such as a human. In general, T cell responses may be favored through the use of relatively short polypeptides (e.g., comprising less than 23 consecutive amino acid residues of a native WT1 polypeptide, preferably 4-16 consecutive residues, more preferably 8-16 consecutive residues and still more preferably 8-10 consecutive residues. Alternatively, or in addition, a vaccine may comprise a non-specific immune response enhancer that preferentially enhances a T cell response. In other words, the immune response enhancer may enhance the level of a T cell response to a WT1 polypeptide by an amount that is proportionally greater than the amount by which an antibody response is enhanced. For example, when compared to a standard oil based adjuvant, such as CFA, an immune response enhancer that preferentially enhances a T cell response may enhance a proliferative T cell response by at least two fold, a lytic response by at least 10%, and/or T cell activation by at least two fold compared to WT1-megative control cell lines, while not detectably enhancing an antibody response. The amount by which a T cell or antibody response to a WT1 polypeptide is enhanced may generally be determined using any representative technique known in the art, such as the techniques provided herein.

A pharmaceutical composition or vaccine may contain DNA encoding one or more of the polypeptides as described above, such that the polypeptide is generated in situ. As noted above, the DNA may be present within any of a variety of delivery systems known to those of ordinary skill in the art, including nucleic acid expression systems, bacterial and viral expression systems and mammalian expression systems. Appropriate nucleic acid expression systems contain the necessary DNA, cDNA or RNA sequences for expression in the patient (such as a suitable promoter and terminating signal). Bacterial delivery systems involve the administration of a bacterium (such as Bacillus-Calmette-Guerrin) that expresses an immunogenic portion of the polypeptide on its cell surface. In a preferred embodiment, the DNA may be introduced using a viral expression system (e.g., vaccinia or other pox virus, retrovirus, or adenovirus), which may involve the use of a non-pathogenic (defective), replication competent virus. Techniques for incorporating DNA into such expression systems are well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. The DNA may also be "naked," as described, for example, in Ulmer et al., Science 259:1745-1749, 1993 and reviewed by Cohen, Science 259:1691-1692, 1993. The uptake of naked DNA may be increased by coating the DNA onto biodegradable beads, which are efficiently transported into the cells.

As noted above, a pharmaceutical composition or vaccine may comprise an antigen-presenting cell that expresses a WT1 polypeptide. For therapeutic purposes, as described herein, the antigen presenting cell is preferably an autologous dendritic cell. Such cells may be prepared and transfected using standard techniques, such as those described by Reeves et al., Cancer Res. 56:5672-5677, 1996; Tuting et al., J. Immunol. 160:1139-1147, 1998; and Nair et al., Nature Biotechnol. 16:364-369, 1998). Expression of a WT1 polypeptide on the surface of an antigen-presenting cell may be confirmed by in vitro stimulation and standard proliferation as well as chromium release assays, as described herein.

While any suitable carrier known to those of ordinary skill in the art may be employed in the pharmaceutical compositions of this invention, the type of carrier will vary depending on the mode of administration. Compositions of the present invention may be formulated for any appropriate manner of administration, including for example, topical, oral, nasal, intravenous, intracranial, intraperitoneal, subcutaneous or intramuscular administration. For parenteral administration, such as subcutaneous injection, the carrier preferably comprises water, saline, alcohol, a fat, a wax or a buffer. For oral administration, any of the above carriers or a solid carrier, such as mannitol, lactose, starch, magnesium stearate, sodium saccharine, talcum, cellulose, glucose, sucrose, and magnesium carbonate, may be employed. Biodegradable microspheres (e.g., polylactate polyglycolate) may also be employed as carriers for the pharmaceutical compositions of this invention. For certain topical applications, formulation as a cream or lotion, using well known components, is preferred.

Such compositions may also comprise buffers (e.g., neutral buffered saline or phosphate buffered saline), carbohydrates (e.g., glucose, mannose, sucrose or dextrans), mannitol, proteins, polypeptides or amino acids such as glycine, antioxidants, chelating agents such as EDTA or glutathione, adjuvants (e.g., aluminum hydroxide) and/or preservatives. Alternatively, compositions of the present invention may be formulated as a lyophilizate. Compounds may also be encapsulated within liposomes using well known technology.

Any of a variety of non-specific immune response enhancers, such as adjuvants, may be employed in the vaccines of this invention. Most adjuvants contain a substance designed to protect the antigen from rapid catabolism, such as aluminum hydroxide or mineral oil, and a stimulator of immune responses, such as lipid A, Bortadella pertussis or Mycobacterium tuberculosis derived proteins. Suitable non-specific immune response enhancers include alum-based adjuvants (e.g., Alhydrogel, Rehydragel, aluminum phosphate, Algammulin, aluminum hydroxide); oil based adjuvants (Freund's adjuvant (FA), Specol, RIBI, TiterMax, MONTANIDE.RTM. ISA50 or Seppic MONTANIDE.RTM. ISA 720; cytokines (e.g., GM-CSF or Flt3-ligand); microspheres; nonionic block copolymer-based adjuvants; dimethyl dioctadecyl ammoniumbromide (DDA) based adjuvants AS-1, AS-2 (Smith Kline Beecham); Ribi Adjuvant system based adjuvants; QS21 (Aquila); saponin based adjuvants (crude saponin, the saponin Quil A); muramyl dipeptide (MDP) based adjuvants such as SAF (Syntex adjuvant in its microfluidized form (SAF-m)); dimethyl-dioctadecyl ammonium bromide (DDA); human complement based adjuvants m. vaccae and derivatives; immune stimulating complex (ISCOM.RTM.) based adjuvants; inactivated toxins; and attenuated infectious agents (such as M. tuberculosis).

As noted above, within certain embodiments, immune response enhancers are chosen for their ability to preferentially elicit or enhance a T cell response (e.g., CD4.sup.+ and/or CD8.sup.+) to a WT1 polypeptide. Such immune response enhancers are well known in the art, and include (but are not limited to) MONTANIDE.RTM. ISA50, Seppic MONTANIDE.RTM. ISA 720, cytokines (e.g., GM-CSF, Flt3-ligand), microspheres, dimethyl dioctadecyl ammoniumbromide (DDA) based adjuvants, AS-1 (Smith Kline Beecham), AS-2 (Smith Kline Beecham), Ribi Adjuvant system based adjuvants, QS21 (Aquila), saponin based adjuvants (crude saponin, the saponin Quil A), Syntex adjuvant in its microfluidized form (SAF-m), MV, ddMV (Genesis), immune stimulating complex (iscom) based adjuvants and inactivated toxins.

The compositions and vaccines described herein may be administered as part of a sustained release formulation (i.e., a formulation such as a capsule or sponge that effects a slow release of compound following administration). Such formulations may generally be prepared using well known technology and administered by, for example, oral, rectal or subcutaneous implantation, or by implantation at the desired target site. Sustained-release formulations may contain a polypeptide, polynucleotide, antibody or cell dispersed in a carrier matrix and/or contained within a reservoir surrounded by a rate controlling membrane. Carriers for use within such formulations are biocompatible, and may also be biodegradable; preferably the formulation provides a relatively constant level of active component release. The amount of active compound contained within a sustained release formulation depends upon the site of implantation, the rate and expected duration of release and the nature of the condition to be treated or prevented.

Therapy of Malignant Diseases

In further aspects of the present invention, the compositions and vaccines described herein may be used to inhibit the development of malignant diseases (e.g., progressive or metastatic diseases or diseases characterized by small tumor burden such as minimal residual disease). In general, such methods may be used to prevent, delay or treat a disease associated with WT1 expression. In other words, therapeutic methods provided herein may be used to treat an existing WT1-associated disease, or may be used to prevent or delay the onset of such a disease in a patient who is free of disease or who is afflicted with a disease that is not yet associated with WT1 expression.

As used herein, a disease is "associated with WT1 expression" if diseased cells (e.g., tumor cells) at some time during the course of the disease generate detectably higher levels of a WT1 polypeptide than normal cells of the same tissue. Association of WT1 expression with a malignant disease does not require that WT1 be present on a tumor. For example, overexpression of WT1 may be involved with initiation of a tumor, but the protein expression may subsequently be lost. Alternatively, a malignant disease that is not characterized by an increase in WT1 expression may, at a later time, progress to a disease that is characterized by increased WT1 expression. Accordingly, any malignant disease in which diseased cells formerly expressed, currently express or are expected to subsequently express increased levels of WT1 is considered to be "associated with WT1 expression."

Immunotherapy may be performed using any of a variety of techniques, in which compounds or cells provided herein function to remove WT1-expressing cells from a patient. Such removal may take place as a result of enhancing or inducing an immune response in a patient specific for WT1 or a cell expressing WT1. Alternatively, WT1-expressing cells may be removed ex vivo (e.g., by treatment of autologous bone marrow, peripheral blood or a fraction of bone marrow or peripheral blood). Fractions of bone marrow or peripheral blood may be obtained using any standard technique in the art.

Within such methods, pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines may be administered to a patient. As used herein, a "patient" refers to any warm-blooded animal, preferably a human. A patient may or may not be afflicted with a malignant disease. Accordingly, the above pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines may be used to prevent the onset of a disease (i.e., prophylactically) or to treat a patient afflicted with a disease (e.g., to prevent or delay progression and/or metastasis of an existing disease). A patient afflicted with a disease may have a minimal residual disease (e.g., a low tumor burden in a leukemia patient in complete or partial remission or a cancer patient following reduction of the tumor burden after surgery radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy). Such a patient may be immunized to inhibit a relapse (i.e., prevent or delay the relapse, or decrease the severity of a relapse). Within certain preferred embodiments, the patient is afflicted with a leukemia (e.g., AML, CML, ALL or childhood ALL), a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or a cancer (e.g., gastrointestinal, lung, thyroid or breast cancer or a melanoma), where the cancer or leukemia is WT1 positive (i.e., reacts detectably with an anti-WT1 antibody, as provided herein or expresses WT1 mRNA at a level detectable by RT-PCR, as described herein) or suffers from an autoimmune disease directed against WT1-expressing cells.

Other diseases associated with WT1 overexpression include kidney cancer (such as renal cell carcinoma, or Wilms tumor), as described in Satoh F., et al., Pathol. Int. 50(6):458-71 (2000), and Campbell C. E. et al., Int. J. Cancer 78(2):182-8 (1998); and mesothelioma, as described in Amin, K. M. et al., Am. J. Pathol. 146(2):344-56 (1995). Harada et al. (Mol. Urol. 3(4):357-364 (1999) describe WT1 gene expression in human testicular germ-cell tumors. Nonomura et al. Hinyokika Kiyo 45(8):593-7 (1999) describe molecular staging of testicular cancer using polymerase chain reaction of the testicular cancer-specific genes. Shimizu et al., Int. J. Gynecol. Pathol. 19(2):158-63 (2000) describe the immunohistochemical detection of the Wilms' tumor gene (WT1) in epithelial ovarian tumors.

WT1 overexpression was also described in desmoplastic small round cell tumors, by Barnoud, R. et al., Am. J. Surg. Pathol. 24(6):830-6 (2000); and Pathol. Res. Pract. 194(10):693-700 (1998). WT1 overexpression in glioblastoma and other cancer was described by Menssen, H. D. et al., J. Cancer Res. Clin. Oncol. 126(4):226-32 (2000), "Wilms' tumor gene (WT1) expression in lung cancer, colon cancer and glioblastoma cell lines compared to freshly isolated tumor specimens." Other diseases showing WT1 overexpression include EBV associated diseases, such as Burkitt's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal cancer (Spinsanti P. et al., Leuk. Lymphoma 38(5-6):611-9 (2000), "Wilms' tumor gene expression by normal and malignant human B lymphocytes."

In Leukemia 14(9):1634-4 (2000), Pan et al., describe in vitro IL-12 treatment of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with leukemia or myelodysplastic syndromes, and reported an increase in cytotoxicity and reduction in WT1 gene expression. In Leukemia 13(6):891-900 (1999), Patmasiriwat et al. reported WT1 and GATA1 expression in myelodysplastic syndrome and acute leukemia. In Leukemia 13(3):393-9 (1999), Tamaki et al. reported that the Wilms' tumor gene WT1 is a good marker for diagnosis of disease progression of myelodysplastic syndromes. Expression of the Wilms' tumor gene WT1 in solid tumors, and its involvement in tumor cell growth, was discussed in relation to gastric cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer cell lines, germ cell tumor cell line, ovarian cancer, the uterine cancer, thyroid cancer cell line, hepatocellular carcinoma, in Oji et al., Jpn. J. Cancer Res. 90(2):194-204 (1999).

The compositions provided herein may be used alone or in combination with conventional therapeutic regimens such as surgery, irradiation, chemotherapy and/or bone marrow transplantation (autologous, syngeneic, allogeneic or unrelated). As discussed in greater detail below, binding agents and T cells as provided herein may be used for purging of autologous stem cells. Such purging may be beneficial prior to, for example, bone marrow transplantation or transfusion of blood or components thereof. Binding agents, T cells, antigen presenting cells (APC) and compositions provided herein may further be used for expanding and stimulating (or priming) autologous, allogeneic, syngeneic or unrelated WT1-specific T-cells in vitro and/or in vivo. Such WT1-specific T cells may be used, for example, within donor lymphocyte infusions.

Routes and frequency of administration, as well as dosage, will vary from individual to individual, and may be readily established using standard techniques. In general, the pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines may be administered by injection (e.g., intracutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous or subcutaneous), intranasally (e.g., by aspiration) or orally. In some tumors, pharmaceutical compositions or vaccines may be administered locally (by, for example, rectocoloscopy, gastroscopy, videoendoscopy, angiography or other methods known in the art). Preferably, between 1 and 10 doses may be administered over a 52 week period. Preferably, 6 doses are administered, at intervals of 1 month, and booster vaccinations may be given periodically thereafter. Alternate protocols may be appropriate for individual patients. A suitable dose is an amount of a compound that, when administered as described above, is capable of promoting an anti-tumor immune response that is at least 10-50% above the basal (i.e., untreated) level. Such response can be monitored by measuring the anti-tumor antibodies in a patient or by vaccine-dependent generation of cytolytic effector cells capable of killing the patient's tumor cells in vitro. Such vaccines should also be capable of causing an immune response that leads to an improved clinical outcome (e.g., more frequent complete or partial remissions, or longer disease-free and/or overall survival) in vaccinated patients as compared to non-vaccinated patients. In general, for pharmaceutical compositions and vaccines comprising one or more polypeptides, the amount of each polypeptide present in a dose ranges from about 100 .mu.g to 5 mg. Suitable dose sizes will vary with the size of the patient, but will typically range from about 0.1 mL to about 5 mL.

In general, an appropriate dosage and treatment regimen provides the active compound(s) in an amount sufficient to provide therapeutic and/or prophylactic benefit. Such a response can be monitored by establishing an improved clinical outcome (e.g., more frequent complete or partial remissions, or longer disease-free and/or overall survival) in treated patients as compared to non-treated patients. Increases in preexisting immune responses to WT1 generally correlate with an improved clinical outcome. Such immune responses may generally be evaluated using standard proliferation, cytotoxicity or cytokine assays, which may be performed using samples obtained from a patient before and after treatment.

Within further aspects, methods for inhibiting the development of a malignant disease associated with WT1 expression involve the administration of autologous T cells that have been activated in response to a WT1 polypeptide or WT1-expressing APC, as described above. Such T cells may be CD4.sup.+ and/or CD8.sup.+, and may be proliferated as described above. The T cells may be administered to the individual in an amount effective to inhibit the development of a malignant disease. Typically, about 1.times.10.sup.9 to 1.times.10.sup.11 T cells/M.sup.2 are administered intravenously, intracavitary or in the bed of a resected tumor. It will be evident to those skilled in the art that the number of cells and the frequency of administration will be dependent upon the response of the patient.

Within certain embodiments, T cells may be stimulated prior to an autologous bone marrow transplantation. Such stimulation may take place in vivo or in vitro. For in vitro stimulation, bone marrow and/or peripheral blood (or a fraction of bone marrow or peripheral blood) obtained from a patient may be contacted with a WT1 polypeptide, a polynucleotide encoding a WT1 polypeptide and/or an APC that expresses a WT1 polypeptide under conditions and for a time sufficient to permit the stimulation of T cells as described above. Bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cells and/or WT1-specific T cells may then be administered to a patient using standard techniques.

Within related embodiments, T cells of a related or unrelated donor may be stimulated prior to a syngeneic or allogeneic (related or unrelated) bone marrow transplantation. Such stimulation may take place in vivo or in vitro. For in vitro stimulation, bone marrow and/or peripheral blood (or a fraction of bone marrow or peripheral blood) obtained from a related or unrelated donor may be contacted with a WT1 polypeptide, WT1 polynucleotide and/or APC that expresses a WT1 polypeptide under conditions and for a time sufficient to permit the stimulation of T cells as described above. Bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cells and/or WT1-specific T cells may then be administered to a patient using standard techniques.

Within other embodiments, WT1-specific T cells as described herein may be used to remove cells expressing WT1 from autologous bone marrow, peripheral blood or a fraction of bone marrow or peripheral blood (e.g., CD34.sup.+ enriched peripheral blood (PB) prior to administration to a patient). Such methods may be performed by contacting bone marrow or PB with such T cells under conditions and for a time sufficient to permit the reduction of WT1 expressing cells to less than 10%, preferably less than 5% and more preferably less than 1%, of the total number of myeloid or lymphatic cells in the bone marrow or peripheral blood. The extent to which such cells have been removed may be readily determined by standard methods such as, for example, qualitative and quantitative PCR analysis, morphology, immunohistochemistry and FACS analysis. Bone marrow or PB (or a fraction thereof) may then be administered to a patient using standard techniques.

Diagnostic Methods

The present invention further provides methods for detecting a malignant disease associated with WT1 expression, and for monitoring the effectiveness of an immunization or therapy for such a disease. Such methods are based on the discovery, within the present invention, that an immune response specific for WT1 protein can be detected in patients afflicted with such diseases, and that methods which enhance such immune responses may provide a preventive or therapeutic benefit.

To determine the presence or absence of a malignant disease associated with WT1 expression, a patient may be tested for the level of T cells specific for WT1. Within certain methods, a biological sample comprising CD4.sup.+ and/or CD8.sup.+ T cells isolated from a patient is incubated with a WT1 polypeptide, a polynucleotide encoding a WT1 polypeptide and/or an APC that expresses a WT1 polypeptide, and the presence or absence of specific activation of the T cells is detected, as described herein. Suitable biological samples include, but are not limited to, isolated T cells. For example, T cells may be isolated from a patient by routine techniques (such as by Ficoll/Hypaque density gradient centrifugation of peripheral blood lymphocytes). T cells may be incubated in vitro for 2-9 days (typically 4 days) at 37.degree. C. with WT1 polypeptide (e.g., 5-25 .mu.g/ml). It may be desirable to incubate another aliquot of a T cell sample in the absence of WT1 polypeptide to serve as a control. For CD4.sup.+ T cells, activation is preferably detected by evaluating proliferation of the T cells. For CD8.sup.+ T cells, activation is preferably detected by evaluating cytolytic activity. A level of proliferation that is at least two fold greater and/or a level of cytolytic activity that is at least 20% greater than in disease-free patients indicates the presence of a malignant disease associated with WT1 expression. Further correlation may be made, using methods well known in the art, between the level of proliferation and/or cytolytic activity and the predicted response to therapy. In particular, patients that display a higher antibody, proliferative and/or lytic response may be expected to show a greater response to therapy.

Within other methods, a biological sample obtained from a patient is tested for the level of antibody specific for WT1. The biological sample is incubated with a WT1 polypeptide, a polynucleotide encoding a WT1 polypeptide and/or an APC that expresses a WT1 polypeptide under conditions and for a time sufficient to allow immunocomplexes to form. Immunocomplexes formed between the WT1 polypeptide and antibodies in the biological sample that specifically bind to the WT1 polypeptide are then detected. A biological sample for use within such methods may be any sample obtained from a patient that would be expected to contain antibodies. Suitable biological samples include blood, sera, ascites, bone marrow, pleural effusion, and cerebrospinal fluid.

The biological sample is incubated with the WT1 polypeptide in a reaction mixture under conditions and for a time sufficient to permit immunocomplexes to form between the polypeptide and antibodies specific for WT1. For example, a biological sample and WT1 polypeptide may be incubated at 4.degree. C. for 24-48 hours.

Following the incubation, the reaction mixture is tested for the presence of immunocomplexes. Detection of immunocomplexes formed between the WT1 polypeptide and antibodies present in the biological sample may be accomplished by a variety of known techniques, such as radioimmunoassays (RIA) and enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Suitable assays are well known in the art and are amply described in the scientific and patent literature (e.g., Harlow and Lane, Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1988). Assays that may be used include, but are not limited to, the double monoclonal antibody sandwich immunoassay technique of David et al. (U.S. Pat. No. 4,376,110); monoclonal-polyclonal antibody sandwich assays (Wide et al., in Kirkham and Hunter, eds., Radioimmunoassay Methods, E. and S. Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1970); the "western blot" method of Gordon et al. (U.S. Pat. No. 4,452,901); immunoprecipitation of labeled ligand (Brown et al., J. Biol. Chem. 255:4980-4983, 1980); enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays as described by, for example, Raines and Ross (J. Biol. Chem. 257:5154-5160, 1982); immunocytochemical techniques, including the use of fluorochromes (Brooks et al., Clin. Exp. Immunol. 39: 477, 1980); and neutralization of activity (Bowen-Pope et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 81:2396-2400, 1984). Other immunoassays include, but are not limited to, those described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,817,827; 3,850,752; 3,901,654; 3,935,074; 3,984,533; 3,996,345; 4,034,074; and 4,098,876.

For detection purposes, WT1 polypeptide may either be labeled or unlabeled. Unlabeled WT1 polypeptide may be used in agglutination assays or in combination with labeled detection reagents that bind to the immunocomplexes (e.g., anti-immunoglobulin, protein G, protein A or a lectin and secondary antibodies, or antigen-binding fragments thereof, capable of binding to the antibodies that specifically bind to the WT1 polypeptide). If the WT1 polypeptide is labeled, the reporter group may be any suitable reporter group known in the art, including radioisotopes, fluorescent groups, luminescent groups, enzymes, biotin and dye particles.

Within certain assays, unlabeled WT1 polypeptide is immobilized on a solid support. The solid support may be any material known to those of ordinary skill in the art to which the polypeptide may be attached. For example, the solid support may be a test well in a microtiter plate or a nitrocellulose or other suitable membrane. Alternatively, the support may be a bead or disc, such as glass, fiberglass, latex or a plastic material such as polystyrene or polyvinylchloride. The support may also be a magnetic particle or a fiber optic sensor, such as those disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,359,681. The polypeptide may be immobilized on the solid support using a variety of techniques known to those of skill in the art, which are amply described in the patent and scientific literature. In the context of the present invention, the term "immobilization" refers to both noncovalent association, such as adsorption, and covalent attachment (which may be a direct linkage between the antigen and functional groups on the support or may be a linkage by way of a cross-linking agent). Immobilization by adsorption to a well in a microtiter plate or to a membrane is preferred. In such cases, adsorption may be achieved by contacting the WT1 polypeptide, in a suitable buffer, with the solid support for a suitable amount of time. The contact time varies with temperature, but is typically between about 1 hour and about 1 day. In general, contacting a well of a plastic microtiter plate (such as polystyrene or polyvinylchloride) with an amount of polypeptide ranging from about 10 ng to about 10 .mu.g, and preferably about 100 ng to about 1 .mu.g, is sufficient to immobilize an adequate amount of polypeptide.

Following immobilization, the remaining protein binding sites on the support are typically blocked. Any suitable blocking agent known to those of ordinary skill in the art, such as bovine serum albumin, TWEEN.RTM. 20.TM. (Sigma Chemical Co., St. Louis, Mo.), heat-inactivated normal goat serum (NGS), or BLOTTO (buffered solution of nonfat dry milk which also contains a preservative, salts, and an antifoaming agent). The support is then incubated with a biological sample suspected of containing specific antibody. The sample can be applied neat, or, more often, it can be diluted, usually in a buffered solution which contains a small amount (0.1%-5.0% by weight) of protein, such as BSA, NGS, or BLOTTO. In general, an appropriate contact time (i.e., incubation time) is a period of time that is sufficient to detect the presence of antibody that specifically binds WT1 within a sample containing such an antibody. Preferably, the contact time is sufficient to achieve a level of binding that is at least about 95% of that achieved at equilibrium between bound and unbound antibody. Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the time necessary to achieve equilibrium may be readily determined by assaying the level of binding that occurs over a period of time. At room temperature, an incubation time of about 30 minutes is generally sufficient.

Unbound sample may then be removed by washing the solid support with an appropriate buffer, such as PBS containing 0.1% TWEEN.RTM.. A detection reagent that binds to the immunocomplexes and that comprises a reporter group may then be added. The detection reagent is incubated with the immunocomplex for an amount of time sufficient to detect the bound antibody. An appropriate amount of time may generally be determined by assaying the level of binding that occurs over a period of time. Unbound detection reagent is then removed and bound detection reagent is detected using the reporter group. The method employed for detecting the reporter group depends upon the nature of the reporter group. For radioactive groups, scintillation counting or autoradiographic methods are generally appropriate. Spectroscopic methods may be used to detect dyes, luminescent groups and fluorescent groups. Biotin may be detected using avidin, coupled to a different reporter group (commonly a radioactive or fluorescent group or an enzyme). Enzyme reporter groups (e.g., horseradish peroxidase, beta-galactosidase, alkaline phosphatase and glucose oxidase) may generally be detected by the addition of substrate (generally for a specific period of time), followed by spectroscopic or other analysis of the reaction products. Regardless of the specific method employed, a level of bound detection reagent that is at least two fold greater than background (i.e., the level observed for a biological sample obtained from a disease-free individual) indicates the presence of a malignant disease associated with WT1 expression.

In general, methods for monitoring the effectiveness of an immunization or therapy involve monitoring changes in the level of antibodies or T cells specific for WT1 in the patient. Methods in which antibody levels are monitored may comprise the steps of: (a) incubating a first biological sample, obtained from a patient prior to a therapy or immunization, with a WT1 polypeptide, wherein the incubation is performed under conditions and for a time sufficient to allow immunocomplexes to form; (b) detecting immunocomplexes formed between the WT1 polypeptide and antibodies in the biological sample that specifically bind to the WT1 polypeptide; (c) repeating steps (a) and (b) using a second biological sample taken from the patient following therapy or immunization; and (d) comparing the number of immunocomplexes detected in the first and second biological samples. Alternatively, a polynucleotide encoding a WT1 polypeptide, or an APC expressing a WT1 polypeptide may be employed in place of the WT1 polypeptide. Within such methods, immunocomplexes between the WT1 polypeptide encoded by the polynucleotide, or expressed by the APC, and antibodies in the biological sample are detected.

Methods in which T cell activation and/or the number of WT1 specific precursors are monitored may comprise the steps of: (a) incubating a first biological sample comprising CD4+ and/or CD8+ cells (e.g., bone marrow, peripheral blood or a fraction thereof), obtained from a patient prior to a therapy or immunization, with a WT1 polypeptide, wherein the incubation is performed under conditions and for a time sufficient to allow specific activation, proliferation and/or lysis of T cells; (b) detecting an amount of activation, proliferation and/or lysis of the T cells; (c) repeating steps (a) and (b) using a second biological sample comprising CD4+ and/or CD8+ T cells, and taken from the same patient following therapy or immunization; and (d) comparing the amount of activation, proliferation and/or lysis of T cells in the first and second biological samples. Alternatively, a polynucleotide encoding a WT1 polypeptide, or an APC expressing a WT1 polypeptide may be employed in place of the WT1 polypeptide.

A biological sample for use within such methods may be any sample obtained from a patient that would be expected to contain antibodies, CD4+ T cells and/or CD8+ T cells. Suitable biological samples include blood, sera, ascites, bone marrow, pleural effusion and cerebrospinal fluid. A first biological sample may be obtained prior to initiation of therapy or immunization or part way through a therapy or vaccination regime. The second biological sample should be obtained in a similar manner, but at a time following additional therapy or immunization. The second biological sample may be obtained at the completion of, or part way through, therapy or immunization, provided that at least a portion of therapy or immunization takes place between the isolation of the first and second biological samples.

Incubation and detection steps for both samples may generally be performed as described above. A statistically significant increase in the number of immunocomplexes in the second sample relative to the first sample reflects successful therapy or immunization.
 

Claim 1 of 2 Claims

1. A method for enhancing or inducing an immune response to WT1 in a human patient, comprising administering to the patient an immunogenic composition comprising: (a) an isolated polypeptide consisting of amino acids 1-249 of SEQ ID NO:319; and (b) a non-specific immune response enhancer; and thereby enhancing or inducing an immune response specific for WT1 or a cell expressing WT1 in the human patient.

____________________________________________
If you want to learn more about this patent, please go directly to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site to access the full patent.

 

 

     
[ Outsourcing Guide ] [ Cont. Education ] [ Software/Reports ] [ Training Courses ]
[ Web Seminars ] [ Jobs ] [ Consultants ] [ Buyer's Guide ] [ Advertiser Info ]

[ Home ] [ Pharm Patents / Licensing ] [ Pharm News ] [ Federal Register ]
[ Pharm Stocks ] [ FDA Links ] [ FDA Warning Letters ] [ FDA Doc/cGMP ]
[ Pharm/Biotech Events ] [ Newsletter Subscription ] [ Web Links ] [ Suggestions ]
[ Site Map ]