Defucosylation of Tumor-Specific Humanized Anti-MUC1 Monoclonal Antibody Enhances NK Cell-Mediated Anti-Tumor Cell Cytotoxicity

Ying Gong, Roel G. J. Klein Wolterink, Valeriia Gulaia, Silvie Cloosen, Femke A. I. Ehlers, Lotte Wieten, Yvo F. Graus, Gerard M. J. Bos, Wilfred T. V. Germeraad*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Antibodies are commonly used in cancer immunotherapy because of their high specificity for tumor-associated antigens. The binding of antibodies can have direct effects on tumor cells but also engages natural killer (NK) cells via their Fc receptor. Mucin 1 (MUC1) is a highly glycosylated protein expressed in normal epithelial cells, while the under-glycosylated MUC1 epitope (MUC1-Tn/STn) is only expressed on malignant cells, making it an interesting diagnostic and therapeutic target. Several anti-MUC1 antibodies have been tested for therapeutic applications in solid tumors thus far without clinical success. Herein, we describe the generation of fully humanized antibodies based on the murine 5E5 antibody, targeting the tumor-specific MUC1-Tn/STn epitope. We confirmed that these antibodies specifically recognize tumor-associated MUC1 epitopes and can activate human NK cells in vitro. Defucosylation of these newly developed anti-MUC1 antibodies further enhanced antigen-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) mediated by NK cells. We show that endocytosis inhibitors augment the availability of MUC1-Tn/STn epitopes on tumor cells but do not further enhance ADCC in NK cells. Collectively, this study describes novel fully humanized anti-MUC1 antibodies that, especially after defucosylation, are promising therapeutic candidates for cellular immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2579
Number of pages19
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • antibody therapy
  • natural killer cells
  • MUC1
  • antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity
  • breast cancer
  • CD16


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