Recombinant human tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) or TRAIL-receptor agonistic monoclonal antibodies promote apoptosis in most cancer cells, and the differential expression of TRAIL-R2 between tumor and normal tissues allows its exploitation as a tumor-associated antigen. The use of these antibodies as anticancer agents has been extensively studied, but the results of clinical trials were disappointing. The observed lack of anticancer activity could be attributed to intrinsic or acquired resistance of tumor cells to this type of treatment. A possible strategy to circumvent drug resistance would be to strike tumor cells with a second modality based on a different mechanism of action. We therefore set out to generate and optimize a bispecific antibody targeting TRAIL-R2 and CD3. After the construction of different bispecific antibodies in tandem-scFv or single-chain diabody formats to reduce possible immunogenicity, we selected a humanized bispecific antibody with very low aggregates and long-term high stability and functionality. This antibody triggered TRAIL-R2 in an agonistic manner and its anticancer activity proved dramatically potentiated by the redirection of cytotoxic T cells against both sensitive and resistant melanoma cells. The results of our study show that combining the TRAIL-based antitumor strategy with an immunotherapeutic approach in a single molecule could be an effective addition to the anticancer armamentarium.

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