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Other Publications (55)

Articles by Laurence J.N. Cooper in JoVE

 JoVE Immunology and Infection

Quantitative High-throughput Single-cell Cytotoxicity Assay For T Cells

1Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Houston, 2Division of Pediatrics, Research Unit 907, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


JoVE 50058

We describe a single-cell high-throughput assay to measure cytotoxicity of T cells when incubated with tumor target cells. This method employs a dense, elastomeric array of sub-nanoliter wells (~100,000 wells/array) to spatially confine the T cells and target cells at defined ratios and is coupled to fluorescence microscopy to monitor effector-target conjugation and subsequent apoptosis.

 JoVE Immunology and Infection

Clinical Application of Sleeping Beauty and Artificial Antigen Presenting Cells to Genetically Modify T Cells from Peripheral and Umbilical Cord Blood

1Division of Pediatrics, U.T. MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, U.T. MD Anderson Cancer Center


JoVE 50070

T cells expressing a CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) are infused as investigational treatment of B-cell malignancies in our first-in-human gene therapy trials. We describe genetic modification of T cells using the Sleeping Beauty (SB) system to introduce CD19-specific CAR and selective propagation on designer CD19+ artificial antigen presenting cells.

Other articles by Laurence J.N. Cooper on PubMed

T-cell Clones Can Be Rendered Specific for CD19: Toward the Selective Augmentation of the Graft-versus-B-lineage Leukemia Effect

Relapse of B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) commonly results from the failure of a graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect to eradicate minimal residual disease. Augmenting the GVL effect by the adoptive transfer of donor-derived B-ALL-specific T-cell clones is a conceptually attractive strategy to decrease relapse rates without exacerbating graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Toward this end, we investigated whether a genetic engineering approach could render CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) specific for tumor cells that express the B-cell lineage cell surface molecule CD19. This was accomplished by the genetic modification of CTLs to express a chimeric immunoreceptor composed of a CD19-specific single-chain immunoglobulin extracellular targeting domain fused to a CD3-zeta intracellular signaling domain. CD19-redirected CTL clones display potent CD19-specific lytic activity and chimeric immunoreceptor-regulated cytokine production and proliferation. Because B-ALL cells can evade T-cell/natural killer- cell recognition by down-regulation of cell surface accessory molecules that participate in the formation of a functional immunologic synapse, we compared the CD19-specific effector function of genetically modified CD8(+) CTLs toward CD19(+) cells with disparate levels of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), leukocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1), and LFA-3. We observed that recognition of B-lineage tumor lines by CD19-specific CTLs was not impaired by low levels of ICAM-1, LFA-1, and LFA-3 cell surface expression, a functional attribute that is likely a consequence of our high-affinity CD19-specific chimeric immunoreceptor. Furthermore, the CD19-specific CTLs could lyse primary B-ALL blasts. These preclinical observations form the basis for implementing clinical trials using donor-derived CD19-specific T-cell clones to treat or prevent relapse of B-ALL after allogeneic HSCT.

Development and Application of CD19-specific T Cells for Adoptive Immunotherapy of B Cell Malignancies

The graft-versus-leukemia (GVL)-effect achieved by donor-derived T cells arising from transplanted allogeneic hematopoietic stem cells or given as donor-leukocyte infusions (DLI) after allogeneic transplant, demonstrates that donor-derived T cells can eradicate B-lineage malignancies. However, graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) occurring after allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplant (HSCT) or polyclonal DLI can limit the efficacy of these interventions. This toxicity can be avoided by using autologous T cells and/or tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). To generate antigen-specific T cells that can be derived from the allogeneic donor or the patient, we have genetically manipulated T cells to express a CD19-specific chimeric immunoreceptor. This renders T cells specific for CD19, a cell surface molecule found on B-lineage leukemia and lymphoma. This review will demonstrate the redirected specificity of CD19-specific T cells and implementation of clinical trials using these cellular agents.

Enhanced Transgene Expression in Quiescent and Activated Human CD8+ T Cells

The level of expression of retroviral vector-encoded proteins in T cells, decreasing during periods of quiescence, could be an obstacle to their clinical utility. To identify promoter systems that could increase the strength and persistence of transgene expression in primary human CD8(+) T cells, we designed a panel of Moloney retroviral vectors to express a destabilized enhanced green fluorescent protein (d4EGFP) reporter protein (t(1/2) = 4 hr). We found that the promoters phosphoglycerate kinase (Pgk), beta-actin, and long terminal repeat (LTR) produced the highest levels of d4EGFP expression in proliferating T cells, but that expression dramatically declined in quiescent cells with all promoters. To improve gene expression, we examined the effect of the beta-interferon (IFN) scaffold attachment region (SAR). This SAR augmented expression from mammalian promoters in cycling T cells, but had a small effect on maintenance of expression in resting T cells. However, when the SAR was combined with the LTR promoter, it significantly enhanced expression in resting and cycling cells. These data support use of the IFN-beta SAR with the LTR in Moloney retroviral vectors to help sustain gene expression in resting primary human CD8(+) T cells and to enhance gene expression in activated T cells.

Specific Recognition and Killing of Glioblastoma Multiforme by Interleukin 13-zetakine Redirected Cytolytic T Cells

The interleukin (IL) 13 receptor alpha2 (IL13Ralpha2) is a glioma-restricted cell-surface epitope not otherwise detected within the central nervous system. Here, we describe a novel approach for targeting glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) with IL13Ralpha2-specific cytolytic T cells (CTLs) by their genetic modification to express a membrane-tethered IL13 cytokine chimeric T-cell antigen receptor, or zetakine. Our prototype zetakine incorporates an IL13 E13Y mutein for selective binding to IL13Ralpha2. Human IL13-zetakine(+)CD8(+) CTL transfectants display IL13Ralpha2-specific antitumor effector function including tumor cell cytolysis, T(C)1 cytokine production, and zetakine-regulated autocrine proliferation. The E13Y amino acid substitution of the IL13 mutein of the zetakine endows CTL transfectants with the capacity to discriminate between IL13Ralpha2(+) GBM targets from targets expressing IL13Ralpha1. In vivo, the adoptive transfer of IL13-zetakine(+)CD8(+) CTL clones results in the regression of established human glioblastoma orthotopic xenografts. Pilot clinical trials have been initiated to evaluate the feasibility and safety of local-regional delivery of autologous IL13-zetakine redirected CTL clones in patients with recurrent GBM. Our IL13-zetakine is a prototype of a new class of chimeric immunoreceptors that signal through an engineered immune synapse composed of membrane-tethered cytokine muteins bound to cell-surface cytokine receptors on tumors.

Enhanced Antilymphoma Efficacy of CD19-redirected Influenza MP1-specific CTLs by Cotransfer of T Cells Modified to Present Influenza MP1

To enhance the in vivo antitumor activity of adoptively transferred, CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-redirected cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), we studied the effect of restimulating CAR(+) CTLs through their endogenous virus-specific T-cell antigen receptor (TcR) by the cotransfer of engineered T-cell antigen-presenting cells (T-APCs). Using influenza A matrix protein 1 (MP1) as a model antigen, we show that ex vivo-expanded CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-APCs expressing a hygromycin phosphotransferase-MP1 fusion protein (HyMP1) process and present MP1 to autologous human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-restricted, MP1-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) CTL precursors. The MP1-specific CTLs are amenable to subsequent genetic modification to express a CD19-specific CAR, designated CD19R, and acquire HLA-unrestricted reactivity toward CD19(+) leukemia and lymphoma tumor targets while maintaining HLA-restricted MP1 specificity. The restimulation of MP1xCD19 dual-specific CTLs in vivo by the adoptive transfer of irradiated HyMP1(+) T-APCs resulted in the enhanced antilymphoma potency of bispecific effector cells, as measured by elimination of the biophotonic signal of established firefly luciferase-expressing Burkitt lymphoma xenografts in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency (NOD/scid) animals compared with control groups restimulated by Hy(+)MP1(neg) T-APCs. Engineered T-APCs are a novel and versatile antigen-delivery system for generating antigen-specific T cells in vitro and enhancing the in vivo effector functioning of CAR-redirected antitumor effector cells.

Biophotonic Cytotoxicity Assay for High-throughput Screening of Cytolytic Killing

We have developed a highly sensitive biophotonic luciferase assay as an alternative to (51)Cr-release for assessment of cell-mediated cytotoxicity. The luciferin/ATP-dependent luminescent signal of target cells stably or transiently transfected with a firefly luciferase reporter gene (fLuc:Zeo) linearly correlates with viable target cell number. Upon incubation of fLuc:Zeo(+) target cells with CD8(+) CTLs, a rapid decrease in bioluminescence was detected that correlated with antigen-specific target cell lysis. The levels of specific lysis measured by (51)Cr-release assays correlated with the attenuation in biophotonic target cell signal, thus validating this approach as a sensitive and accurate method for the measurement of cytolysis. We show that this luminescent-based cytolytic assay (LCA) is amenable for high-throughput screening of effector cell cytolytic activity, allows for the rate of cytolysis to be measured in a single micro-plate, and permits the multiplexing of cytolytic killing with other lymphocyte functional assays such as cytokine release. Importantly, this method accurately measures the cytolytic killing of target cells that are either stably or transiently transfected with a fLuc reporter gene, and thus is ideal for monitoring cytolysis of both primary autologous and immortalized target cell lines. The versatility of the non-radioactive, high-throughput, biophotonic cytolytic assay should make this method an attractive alternative to chromium-release for quantifying effector cell cytolytic activity.

Amplification of RNAi--targeting HLA MRNAs

Posttranscriptional suppression of gene expression can be achieved by introduction of sequence-specific small interfering (si) RNA duplexes and by de novo intracellular synthesis of short sequence-specific double-stranded RNAs. However, achieving desired levels of knockdown is a barrier to successful analytic and therapeutic application. We demonstrate that increasing expression of introduced short hairpin RNA (shRNA) can markedly enhance RNA interference (RNAi) and that this approach can be used to achieve maximal target down-regulation, when the choice of optimal siRNA-binding sites is restricted or when multiple genes are simultaneously targeted and the amount of siRNA is limiting. A dose-dependent RNAi effect was accomplished by placing copies of shRNA under control of the Pol III U6 small nuclear RNA promoter in tandem in a DNA vector. Using this system, we achieved simultaneous down-regulation of expression of classical human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I genes in cultured and primary human T cells, which might be applied to help circumvent T-cell-mediated rejection of immunogenic and/or HLA-disparate allografts.

A Quantitative High-throughput Chemotaxis Assay Using Bioluminescent Reporter Cells

Here we report on a novel biophotonic assay system for the detection and quantitation of chemotaxis, the directed movement of cells in response to chemokine concentration gradients. Our assay employs a firefly luciferase (ffLuc)-generated biophotonic signal to quantify cellular migration in 96-well microplate chemotaxis instruments. When compared to direct cell enumeration, the biophotonic reporter method is superior in accuracy, reproducibility, and sensitivity. As a proof-of-concept, we demonstrate the utility of this assay for quantifying the chemotactic response of ex vivo expanded ffLuc(+) primary human T-cells to recombinant human chemokines MCP-1, RANTES, and IP-10. The 96-well microplate format and in situ biophotonic detection of cells are amenable to high-throughput screening of peptides and small molecule libraries to identify agonists and antagonists of cellular chemotaxis, to analyze biological fluids for chemotactic activity, and to study chemotaxis in a variety of cell types.

T-cell Genetic Modification for Re-directed Tumor Recognition

Enhancing SiRNA Effects in T Cells for Adoptive Immunotherapy

Genetically manipulated T cells can be endowed with novel functions to obtain desired in vivo effects after adoptive transfer. This genetic approach is being used to introduce genes such as chimeric immunoreceptors and tumor-specific T cells are being evaluated in early phase clinic trials. However, the ability to alter the genetic programming of T cells also presents opportunities to remove unwanted T-cell functions in order to augment an anti-tumor effect or endow resistance such as to HIV infection. Specifically, the use of RNA interference (RNAi) to disrupt gene expression by targeting either the mRNA or the promoter, provides investigators with many new opportunities to genetically modify T cells that should prove useful in future applications of adoptive immunotherapy.

Differentiation of Naive Cord-blood T Cells into CD19-specific Cytolytic Effectors for Posttransplantation Adoptive Immunotherapy

Disease relapse is a barrier to achieving therapeutic success after unrelated umbilical cord-blood transplantation (UCBT) for B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). While adoptive transfer of donor-derived tumor-specific T cells is a conceptually attractive approach to eliminating residual disease after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, adoptive immunotherapy after UCBT is constrained by the difficulty of generating antigen-specific T cells from functionally naive umbilical cord-blood (UCB)-derived T cells. Therefore, to generate T cells that recognize B-ALL, we have developed a chimeric immunoreceptor to redirect the specificity of T cells for CD19, a B-lineage antigen, and expressed this transgene in UCB-derived T cells. An ex vivo process, which is compliant with current good manufacturing practice for T-cell trials, has been developed to genetically modify and numerically expand UCB-derived T cells into CD19-specific effector cells. These are capable of CD19-restricted cytokine production and cytolysis in vitro, as well as mediating regression of CD19+ tumor and being selectively eliminated in vivo. Moreover, time-lapse microscopy of the genetically modified T-cell clones revealed an ability to lyse CD19+ tumor cells specifically and repetitively. These data provide the rationale for infusing UCB-derived CD19-specific T cells after UCBT to reduce the incidence of CD19+ B-ALL relapse.

CD28 Costimulation Provided Through a CD19-specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor Enhances in Vivo Persistence and Antitumor Efficacy of Adoptively Transferred T Cells

Chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) combine an antigen-binding domain with a CD3-zeta signaling motif to redirect T-cell specificity to clinically important targets. First-generation CAR, such as the CD19-specific CAR (designated CD19R), may fail to fully engage genetically modified T cells because activation is initiated by antigen-dependent signaling through chimeric CD3-zeta, independent of costimulation through accessory molecules. We show that enforced expression of the full-length costimulatory molecule CD28 in CD8(+)CD19R(+)CD28(-) T cells can restore fully competent antigen-dependent T-cell activation upon binding CD19(+) targets expressing CD80/CD86. Thus, to provide costimulation to T cells through a CD19-specific CAR, independent of binding to CD80/CD86, we developed a second-generation CAR (designated CD19RCD28), which includes a modified chimeric CD28 signaling domain fused to chimeric CD3-zeta. CD19R(+) and CD19RCD28(+) CD8(+) T cells specifically lyse CD19(+) tumor cells. However, the CD19RCD28(+) CD8(+) T cells proliferate in absence of exogenous recombinant human interleukin-2, produce interleukin-2, propagate, and up-regulate antiapoptotic Bcl-X(L) after stimulation by CD19(+) tumor cells. For the first time, we show in vivo that adoptively transferred CD19RCD28(+) T cells show an improved persistence and antitumor effect compared with CD19R(+) T cells. These data imply that modifications to the CAR can result in improved therapeutic potential of CD19-specific T cells expressing this second-generation CAR.

Lymphoid Reconstruction and Vaccines

Allogeneic HSCT is the most reliable, robust, and effective cell-based biotherapy currently available to pediatric and adult patients with hematologic malignancies. The central role of donor-derived lymphocytes in mediating an effective antitumor effect, preventing and controlling opportunistic infections, and causing GVHD is well documented in animal experiments and human trials. The profound lymphopenia after conditioning regimens coupled with molecular tools to distinguish host versus donor cells provides investigators a window into immune recovery after allogeneic HSCT. Serial analyses of T cell subsets linking immunophenotype with function have revealed the kinetics of donor-derived T cell recovery after allografting and provided insights into ways the immune system can be manipulated to augment the graft-versus-tumor (GVT) effect without inducing GVHD. As this review demonstrates, investigators are not limited to being passive observers of this immune reconstitution; rather, we have an opportunity to shape the allografted T cells repertoire to selectively augment immune function.

Combining Adoptive Cellular and Immunocytokine Therapies to Improve Treatment of B-lineage Malignancy

Currently, the lineage-specific cell-surface molecules CD19 and CD20 present on many B-cell malignancies are targets for both antibody- and cell-based therapies. Coupling these two treatment modalities is predicted to improve the antitumor effect, particularly for tumors resistant to single-agent biotherapies. This can be shown using an immunocytokine, composed of a CD20-specific monoclonal antibody fused to biologically active interleukin 2 (IL-2), combined with ex vivo expanded human umbilical cord blood-derived CD8(+) T cells, that have been genetically modified to be CD19 specific, for adoptive transfer after allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. We show that a benefit of targeted delivery of recombinant IL-2 by the immunocytokine to the CD19(+)CD20(+) tumor microenvironment is improved in vivo persistence of the CD19-specific T cells, and this results in an augmented cell-mediated antitumor effect. Phase I trials are under way using anti-CD20-IL-2 immunocytokine and CD19-specific T cells as monotherapies, and our results warrant clinical trials using combination of these two immunotherapies.

Antigen-independent and Antigen-dependent Methods to Numerically Expand CD19-specific CD8+ T Cells

Preclinical and clinical trials are investigating the potential of T cells genetically modified to express a first-generation CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), designated CD19R, for adoptive immunotherapy of B-lineage leukemias and lymphomas. Currently, our genetically modified CD19-specific CD8+ (CD19R+CD8+) T cells are expanded ex vivo using a rapid expansion protocol (REP) to clinically meaningful numbers after antigen-independent activation with anti-CD3epsilon and recombinant human interleukin-2 on a double-cell feeder-layer of gamma-irradiated allogeneic peripheral blood mononuclear cells and a lymphoblastoid cell line. We now compare the ability of the REP with CD19-dependent numerical expansion using CD19+ artificial antigen-presenting cells to propagate CD19R+CD8+ T cells.

Delayed Immune Reconstitution After Cord Blood Transplantation is Characterized by Impaired Thymopoiesis and Late Memory T-cell Skewing

Advances in immune assessment, including the development of T-cell receptor excision circle (TREC) assays of thymopoiesis, cytokine-flow cytometry assays of T-cell function, and higher-order phenotyping of T-cell maturation subsets have improved our understanding of T-cell homeostasis. Limited data exist using these methods to characterize immune recovery in adult cord blood (CB) transplant recipients, in whom infection is a leading cause of mortality. We now report the results of a single-center prospective study of T-cell immune recovery after cord blood transplantation (CBT) in a predominantly adult population. Our primary findings include the following: (1) Prolonged T lymphopenia and compensatory expansion of B and natural killer (NK) cells was evident; (2) CB transplant recipients had impaired functional recovery, although we did observe posttransplantation de novo T-cell responses to cytomegalovirus (CMV) in a subset of patients; (3) Thymopoietic failure characterized post-CBT immune reconstitution, in marked contrast to results in other transplant recipients; and (4) Thymopoietic failure was associated with late memory T-cell skewing. Our data suggest that efforts to improve outcomes in adult CB transplant recipients should be aimed at optimizing T-cell immune recovery. Strategies that improve the engraftment of lymphoid precursors, protect the thymus during pretransplant conditioning, and/or augment the recovery of thymopoiesis may improve outcomes after CBT.

Immunotherapy for Pediatric Cancer

Improvements in adult cancer survivorship can be achieved from behavioral changes and adopting screening programs. Yet, these approaches cannot be readily applied to lower the morbidity and mortality from childhood cancers. Rather, pediatric oncologists must rely on procedures and therapies to treat, rather than prevent malignancies. The systematic application of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery has led to remarkable advances in survival but these improvements have come at a cost. Children routinely receive chemotherapy agents that were designed decades ago, and these drugs have predictable side effects that result in the loss of potential for long-term survivors. The advent of targeted applications of immune-based therapies offers children with cancer a new class of oncolytic therapies that may be used to treat disease refractory to conventional approaches and lessen the toxicity of current treatment regimens without compromising remission. This review explores how 3 components of the immune system--T cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and antibodies--can be used for therapy of pediatric malignancies.

Redirecting Specificity of T-cell Populations for CD19 Using the Sleeping Beauty System

Genetic modification of clinical-grade T cells is undertaken to augment function, including redirecting specificity for desired antigen. We and others have introduced a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to enable T cells to recognize lineage-specific tumor antigen, such as CD19, and early-phase human trials are currently assessing safety and feasibility. However, a significant barrier to next-generation clinical studies is developing a suitable CAR expression vector capable of genetically modifying a broad population of T cells. Transduction of T cells is relatively efficient but it requires specialized manufacture of expensive clinical grade recombinant virus. Electrotransfer of naked DNA plasmid offers a cost-effective alternative approach, but the inefficiency of transgene integration mandates ex vivo selection under cytocidal concentrations of drug to enforce expression of selection genes to achieve clinically meaningful numbers of CAR(+) T cells. We report a new approach to efficiently generating T cells with redirected specificity, introducing DNA plasmids from the Sleeping Beauty transposon/transposase system to directly express a CD19-specific CAR in memory and effector T cells without drug selection. When coupled with numerical expansion on CD19(+) artificial antigen-presenting cells, this gene transfer method results in rapid outgrowth of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells expressing CAR to redirect specificity for CD19(+) tumor cells.

Test-driving CARs

Visualizing Fewer Than 10 Mouse T Cells with an Enhanced Firefly Luciferase in Immunocompetent Mouse Models of Cancer

Antigen specific T cell migration to sites of infection or cancer is critical for an effective immune response. In mouse models of cancer, the number of lymphocytes reaching the tumor is typically only a few hundred, yet technology capable of imaging these cells using bioluminescence has yet to be achieved. A combination of codon optimization, removal of cryptic splice sites and retroviral modification was used to engineer an enhanced firefly luciferase (ffLuc) vector. Compared with ffLuc, T cells expressing our construct generated >100 times more light, permitting detection of as few as three cells implanted s.c. while maintaining long term coexpression of a reporter gene (Thy1.1). Expression of enhanced ffLuc in mouse T cells permitted the tracking of <3 x 10(4) adoptively transferred T cells infiltrating sites of vaccination and preestablished tumors. Penetration of light through deep tissues, including the liver and spleen, was also observed. Finally, we were able to enumerate infiltrating mouse lymphocytes constituting <0.3% of total tumor cellularity, representing a significant improvement over standard methods of quantitation including flow cytometry.

Allogeneic Transplantation for Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: the Emerging Role of Peritransplantation Minimal Residual Disease/chimerism Monitoring and Novel Chemotherapeutic, Molecular, and Immune Approaches Aimed at Preventing Relapse

Although improved donor sources and supportive care have decreased transplantation-related mortality over the past decade, relapse remains the principal cause of failure after allogeneic transplantation for high-risk pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Emerging tools of minimal residual disease (MRD) and chimerism monitoring before and after transplantation have defined those children at highest risk for relapse and provide the opportunity for intervention to prevent relapse. Specific methods aimed at decreasing relapse include the use of intensive treatment before transplantation to increase the percentage of patients undergoing the procedure with negative MRD, optimal transplantation preparative regimens, and posttransplantation interventions with targeted or immunologic therapy. Early data demonstrate decreased relapse with the use of sirolimus for all types of ALL and imatinib for ALL with the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph(+) ALL) after transplantation. Patients with increasing chimerism or MRD have been shown to benefit from early withdrawal of immune suppression or donor lymphocyte infusion. Finally, various targeted immunologic therapies, including monoclonal antibodies, killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor mismatching, natural killer cell therapy, and targeted T cell therapies, are emerging that also could have an affect on relapse and improve survival after transplantation for pediatric ALL.

Highlights of the First International "Immunotherapy in Pediatric Oncology: Progress and Challenges" Meeting

The first annual conference on immunotherapy in pediatric oncology was held in Bethesda, MD, from September 9 to 10, 2008 to discuss the state-of-the-art of immunotherapeutic strategies currently being explored in pediatric oncology. Major topics included targeting cell surface receptors, understanding and improving T-cell-based therapies, augmenting innate immune strategies, and enhancing graft-versus-leukemia for pediatric malignancies. As can be seen in the summaries of the individual presentations, significant progress has been made in developing preclinical models of pediatric tumors and a variety of novel immunobiologic therapies are approaching, or already in, the clinic. Although there is much excitement about the potential utility of these agents, a great deal of challenges lie ahead in improving the efficacy of each of these modalities and getting them to patients in a timely fashion. The resulting discussions will hopefully lead to new collaborations and insight for further translational and clinical studies.

Persuading Natural Killer Cells to Eliminate Bad B Cells

Clinical trials are underway infusing T cells genetically modified to be specific for B-cell malignancies using a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to redirect specificity for CD19. However, issues remain about whether the CAR can provide a fully competent application signal and whether other lymphocytes with lytic capacity can target CD19(+) tumors.

Repetitive Noninvasive Monitoring of HSV1-tk-expressing T Cells Intravenously Infused into Nonhuman Primates Using Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography with 18F-FEAU

Adoptive transfer of antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) has been successfully used to treat patients with different types of cancer. However, the long-term spatial-temporal dynamics of the distribution of systemically infused CTLs remains largely unknown. Noninvasive imaging of adoptively transferred CTLs using molecular-genetic reporter imaging with positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET-CT) represents an innovative approach to understanding the long-term migratory patterns and therapeutic potential of adoptively transferred T cells. Here we report the application of repetitive PET-CT imaging with [18F]fluoro-5-ethyl-1-beta-D-arabinofuranosyluracil (18F-FEAU) in two nonhuman primates demonstrating that autologous polyclonal macaque T lymphocytes activated and transduced with a retroviral vector encoding for the sr39 mutant herpes simplex virus 1 thymidine kinase (sr39HSV1-tk) reporter gene can be detected after intravenous infusion in discrete lymphoid organs and in sites of inflammation. This study represents a proof of principle and supports the application of 18F-FEAU PET-CT imaging for monitoring the distribution of intravenously administered sr39HSV1-tk gene-transduced CTLs in humans.

Genome-wide Mapping of PiggyBac Transposon Integrations in Primary Human T Cells

The piggyBac transposon system represents a promising nonviral tool for gene delivery and discovery, and may also be of value for clinical gene therapy. PiggyBac is a highly efficient integrating vector that stably transfects (approximately 40%) of primary human T cells for potential adoptive immunotherapy applications. To evaluate the potential genotoxicity of piggyBac, we compared 228 integration sites in primary human T cells to integrations in 2 other human-derived cell lines (HEK293 and HeLa) and randomly simulated integrations into the human genome. Our results revealed distinct differences between cell types. PiggyBac had a nonrandom integration profile and a preference for transcriptional units (approximately 50% into RefSeq genes in all cell types), CpG islands (18% in T cells and 8% in other human cells), and transcriptional start sites (<5 kb, 16% to 20% in all cell types). PiggyBac also preferred TTAA but not AT-rich regions of the human genome. We evaluated the expression of mapped genes into which piggyBac integrated, and found selection of more active genes in primary human T cells compared with other human cell types, possibly due to concomitant T-cell activation during transposition. Importantly, we found that in comparison to what has been reported for gammaretroviral and human lenitviral vectors, piggyBac had decreased integration frequency into or within 50 kb of the transcriptional start sites of known proto-oncogenes. Hence the piggyBac nonviral gene delivery system seems to represent a promising gene transfer system for clinical applications using human T lymphocytes.

New Approaches to Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Pediatric Cancers

About 30 years have passed since the first children underwent allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Since then, there have been major improvements to identifying and expanding pools of donors, mobilizing and harvesting hematopoietic stem cells, conditioning therapies, transfusion medicine, antimicrobials, immunosuppression, and supportive care. These advances have broadened the application of HSCT to treat malignant and nonmalignant pediatric disorders. Currently, most children and young adults with cancer who undergo allogeneic HSCT are identified as having a malignancy that would be lethal if not for the biologic therapy that HSCT imparts, and remarkably, many of these patients can be cured. However, this cure still comes with costs, including infections, graft-versus-host disease, loss of potential, and psychosocial and financial stresses. New approaches are increasingly available that focus on immune modulation to reduce the burdens of HSCT while improving its therapeutic benefit.

PiggyBac Transposon/transposase System to Generate CD19-specific T Cells for the Treatment of B-lineage Malignancies

Nonviral integrating vectors can be used for expression of therapeutic genes. piggyBac (PB), a transposon/transposase system, has been used to efficiently generate induced pluripotent stems cells from somatic cells, without genetic alteration. In this paper, we apply PB transposition to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) in primary human T cells. We demonstrate that T cells electroporated to introduce the PB transposon and transposase stably express CD19-specific CAR and when cultured on CD19(+) artificial antigen-presenting cells, numerically expand in a CAR-dependent manner, display a phenotype associated with both memory and effector T cell populations, and exhibit CD19-dependent killing of tumor targets. Integration of the PB transposon expressing CAR was not associated with genotoxicity, based on chromosome analysis. PB transposition for generating human T cells with redirected specificity to a desired target such as CD19 is a new genetic approach with therapeutic implications.

Advancement of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Research in North America: Priorities of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium

Advances in pediatric bone marrow transplantation (BMT) are slowed by the small number of patients with a given disease who undergo transplantation, a lack of sufficient infrastructure to run early-phase oncology protocols and studies of rare nonmalignant disorders, and challenges associated with funding multi-institutional trials. Leadership of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium (PBMTC), a large pediatric BMT clinical trials network representing 77 active and 45 affiliated centers worldwide, met in April 2009 to develop strategic plans to address these issues. Key barriers, including infrastructure development and funding, along with scientific initiatives in malignant and nonmalignant disorders, cellular therapeutics, graft-versus-host disease, and supportive care were discussed. The PBMTC's agenda for approaching these issues will result in infrastructure and trials specific to pediatrics that will run through the PBMTC or its partners, the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network and the Children's Oncology Group.

A Transposon and Transposase System for Human Application

The stable introduction of therapeutic transgenes into human cells can be accomplished using viral and nonviral approaches. Transduction with clinical-grade recombinant viruses offers the potential of efficient gene transfer into primary cells and has a record of therapeutic successes. However, widespread application for gene therapy using viruses can be limited by their initially high cost of manufacture at a limited number of production facilities as well as a propensity for nonrandom patterns of integration. The ex vivo application of transposon-mediated gene transfer now offers an alternative to the use of viral vectors. Clinical-grade DNA plasmids can be prepared at much reduced cost and with lower immunogenicity, and the integration efficiency can be improved by the transient coexpression of a hyperactive transposase. This has facilitated the design of human trials using the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon system to introduce a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to redirect the specificity of human T cells. This review examines the rationale and safety implications of application of the SB system to genetically modify T cells to be manufactured in compliance with current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) for phase I/II trials.

Derivation of Human T Lymphocytes from Cord Blood and Peripheral Blood with Antiviral and Antileukemic Specificity from a Single Culture As Protection Against Infection and Relapse After Stem Cell Transplantation

Viral infections and leukemic relapse account for the majority of treatment failures in patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) receiving allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) or cord blood (CB) transplants. Adoptive transfer of virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) provides protection against common viruses causing serious infections after HSC transplantation without concomitant graft-versus-host disease. We have now generated CTL lines from peripheral blood (PB) or CB units that recognize multiple common viruses and provide antileukemic activity by transgenic expression of a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting CD19 expressed on B-ALL. PB-derived CAR(+) CTLs produced interferon-gamma (IFNgamma) in response to cytomegalovirus-pp65, adenovirus-hexon, and Epstein-Barr virus pepmixes (from 205 +/- 104 to 1034 +/- 304 spot-forming cells [SFCs]/10(5) T cells) and lysed primary B-ALL blasts in (51)Cr-release assays (mean, 66% +/- 5% specific lysis; effector-target [E/T] ratio, 40:1) and the CD19(+) Raji cell line (mean, 78% +/- 17%) in contrast to nontransduced controls (8% +/- 8% and 3% +/- 2%). CB-derived CAR(+) CTLs showed similar antiviral and antitumor function and both PB and CB CAR(+) CTLs completely eliminated B-ALL blasts over 5 days of coculture. This approach may prove beneficial for patients with high-risk B-ALL who have recently received an HSC or CB transplant and are at risk of infection and relapse.

Combining CD19 Redirection and Alloanergization to Generate Tumor-specific Human T Cells for Allogeneic Cell Therapy of B-cell Malignancies

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation can cure some patients with high-risk B-cell malignancies, but disease relapse following transplantation remains a significant problem. One approach that could be used to augment the donor T-cell-mediated antitumor effect is the infusion of allogeneic donor-derived T cells expressing a chimeric antibody receptor (CAR) specific to the B-cell antigen CD19. However, the use of such cells might result in toxicity in the form of graft-versus-host disease mediated by CD19-specific (CD19-CAR) T cells possessing alloreactive endogenous T-cell receptors. We therefore investigated whether nonalloreactive tumor-specific human T cells could be generated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of healthy donors by the combination of CD19 redirection via CAR expression and subsequent alloanergization by allostimulation and concomitant blockade of CD28-mediated costimulation. Alloanergization of CD19-CAR T cells resulted in efficient and selective reduction of alloresponses in both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, including allospecific proliferation and cytokine secretion. Importantly, T-cell effector functions including CAR-dependent proliferation and specific target cytolysis and cytokine production were retained after alloanergization. Our data support the application of CD19 redirection and subsequent alloanergization to generate allogeneic donor T cells for clinical use possessing increased antitumor activity but limited capacity to mediate graft-versus-host disease. Immunotherapy with such cells could potentially reduce disease relapse after allogeneic transplantation without increasing toxicity, thereby improving the outcome of patients undergoing allogeneic transplantation for high-risk B-cell malignancies.

Redirecting T-cell Specificity by Introducing a Tumor-specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor

Infusions of antigen-specific T cells have yielded therapeutic responses in patients with pathogens and tumors. To broaden the clinical application of adoptive immunotherapy against malignancies, investigators have developed robust systems for the genetic modification and characterization of T cells expressing introduced chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to redirect specificity. Human trials are under way in patients with aggressive malignancies to test the hypothesis that manipulating the recipient and reprogramming T cells before adoptive transfer may improve their therapeutic effect. These examples of personalized medicine infuse T cells designed to meet patients' needs by redirecting their specificity to target molecular determinants on the underlying malignancy. The generation of clinical grade CAR(+) T cells is an example of bench-to-bedside translational science that has been accomplished using investigator-initiated trials operating largely without industry support. The next-generation trials will deliver designer T cells with improved homing, CAR-mediated signaling, and replicative potential, as investigators move from the bedside to the bench and back again.

A High Throughput Microelectroporation Device to Introduce a Chimeric Antigen Receptor to Redirect the Specificity of Human T Cells

It has been demonstrated that a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) can directly recognize the CD19 molecule expressed on the cell surface of B-cell malignancies independent of major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Although T-cell therapy of tumors using CD19-specific CAR is promising, this approach relies on using expression vectors that stably integrate the CAR into T-cell chromosomes. To circumvent the potential genotoxicity that may occur from expressing integrating transgenes, we have expressed the CD19-specific CAR transgene from mRNA using a high throughput microelectroporation device. This research was accomplished using a microelectroporator to achieve efficient and high throughput non-viral gene transfer of in vitro transcribed CAR mRNA into human T cells that had been numerically expanded ex vivo. Electro-transfer of mRNA avoids the potential genotoxicity associated with vector and transgene integration and the high throughput capacity overcomes the expected transient CAR expression, as repeated rounds of electroporation can replace T cells that have lost transgene expression. We fabricated and tested a high throughput microelectroporator that can electroporate a stream of 2 x 10(8) primary T cells within 10 min. After electroporation, up to 80% of the passaged T cells expressed the CD19-specific CAR. Video time-lapse microscopy (VTLM) demonstrated the redirected effector function of the genetically manipulated T cells to specifically lyse CD19+ tumor cells. Our biomedical microdevice, in which T cells are transiently and safely modified to be tumor-specific and then can be re-infused, offers a method for redirecting T-cell specificity, that has implications for the development of adoptive immunotherapy.

Translating Sleeping Beauty Transposition into Cellular Therapies: Victories and Challenges

Recent results confirm that long-term expression of therapeutic transgenes can be achieved by using a transposon-based system in primary stem cells and in vivo. Transposable elements are natural DNA transfer vehicles that are capable of efficient genomic insertion. The latest generation, Sleeping Beauty transposon-based hyperactive vector (SB100X), is able to address the basic problem of non-viral approaches - that is, low efficiency of stable gene transfer. The combination of transposon-based non-viral gene transfer with the latest improvements of non-viral delivery techniques could provide a long-term therapeutic effect without compromising biosafety. The new challenges of pre-clinical research will focus on further refinement of the technology in large animal models and improving the safety profile of SB vectors by target-selected transgene integration into genomic "safe harbors." The first clinical application of the SB system will help to validate the safety of this approach.

Off-the-shelf T-cell Therapy

Considerations for the Clinical Application of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells: Observations from a Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee Symposium Held June 15, 2010

T cells that are genetically modified to express single-chain chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) have shown promise in early cancer immunotherapy clinical trials. Unfortunately, 2 recent deaths in cancer patients treated with CAR T cells have created some uncertainty on how to best mitigate patient risk, while continuing to advance this very promising therapeutic avenue. In order to address these concerns, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) held a symposium, the objectives of which were to first review the reported treatment-associated toxicities and, second, to discuss methods for improving safety and efficacy. This report highlights the issues raised as part of this discussion, with a specific focus on protocols infusing CAR T cells. Because this was not a consensus conference, the opinions described should not be construed to represent those of any individual RAC member, the RAC as a body, conference participants, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Reprogramming CD19-specific T Cells with IL-21 Signaling Can Improve Adoptive Immunotherapy of B-lineage Malignancies

Improving the therapeutic efficacy of T cells expressing a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) represents an important goal in efforts to control B-cell malignancies. Recently an intrinsic strategy has been developed to modify the CAR itself to improve T-cell signaling. Here we report a second extrinsic approach based on altering the culture milieu to numerically expand CAR(+) T cells with a desired phenotype, for the addition of interleukin (IL)-21 to tissue culture improves CAR-dependent T-cell effector functions. We used electrotransfer of Sleeping Beauty system to introduce a CAR transposon and selectively propagate CAR(+) T cells on CD19(+) artificial antigen-presenting cells (aAPC). When IL-21 was present, there was preferential numeric expansion of CD19-specific T cells which lysed and produced IFN-γ in response to CD19. Populations of these numerically expanded CAR(+) T cells displayed an early memory surface phenotype characterized as CD62L(+)CD28(+) and a transcriptional profile of naïve T cells. In contrast, T cells propagated with only exogenous IL-2 tended to result in an overgrowth of CD19-specific CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, adoptive transfer of CAR(+) T cells cultured with IL-21 exhibited improved control of CD19(+) B-cell malignancy in mice. To provide coordinated signaling to propagate CAR(+) T cells, we developed a novel mutein of IL-21 bound to the cell surface of aAPC that replaced the need for soluble IL-21. Our findings show that IL-21 can provide an extrinsic reprogramming signal to generate desired CAR(+) T cells for effective immunotherapy.

Characterization of Immunologic Properties of a Second HLA-A2 Epitope from a Granule Protease in CML Patients and HLA-A2 Transgenic Mice

The serine proteases, neutrophil elastase (HNE) and proteinase 3 (PR3), are aberrantly expressed in human myeloid leukemias. T-cell responses to these proteins have been correlated with remission in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Human PR3/HNE-specific CD8(+) T cells predominantly recognize a nonameric HLA-A2-restricted T-cell epitope called PR1 which is conserved in both Ags. However, CML patients have CD8(+) T cells in peripheral blood recognizing an additional HLA-A2 epitope termed PR2. To assess immunologic properties of these Ags, novel recombinant vaccinia viruses (rVV) expressing PR3 and HNE were evaluated in HLA-A2 transgenic (Tg) mice (HHDII). Immunization of HHDII mice with rVV-PR3 elicited a robust PR3-specific CD8(+) T-cell response dominated by recognition of PR2, with minimal recognition of the PR1 epitope. This result was unexpected, because the PR2 peptide has been reported to bind poorly to HLA. To account for these findings, we proposed that HHDII mice negatively selected PR1-specific T cells because of the presence of this epitope within murine PR3 and HNE, leading to immunodominance of PR2-specific responses. PR2-specific splenocytes are cytotoxic to targets expressing naturally processed PR3, though PR1-specific splenocytes are not. We conclude that PR2 represents a functional T-cell epitope recognized in mice and human leukemia patients. These studies are registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00716911.

Highlights of the Second International Conference on "Immunotherapy in Pediatric Oncology"

The Second International Conference on Immunotherapy in Pediatric Oncology was held in Houston, Texas, USA, October 11-12, 2010, to discuss the progress and challenges that have occurred in cutting edge immunotherapeutic strategies currently being developed for pediatric oncology. Major topics included immune targeting of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and pediatric solid tumors, chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors, enhancing graft-versus-leukemia for pediatric cancers, overcoming hurdles of immunotherapy, strategies to active the innate immune system, and moving immunotherapy beyond phase I studies. Significant progress has been made in the last 2 years both in the development of novel immunobiologics such as CARs, and in establishing survival benefits of an anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody in randomized studies. Although there is much excitement going forward, a great deal of laboratory and regulatory challenges lie ahead in improving the efficacy of each of these modalities as well as getting them to patients in a timely and cost-effective fashion. The resulting discussions will hopefully lead to new collaborations and insight for further translational and clinical studies.

Efficacy and Safety of Sleeping Beauty Transposon-mediated Gene Transfer in Preclinical Animal Studies

Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposons have been effective in delivering therapeutic genes to treat certain diseases in mice. Hydrodynamic gene delivery of integrating transposons to 5-20% of the hepatocytes in a mouse results in persistent elevated expression of the therapeutic polypeptides that can be secreted into the blood for activity throughout the animal. An alternative route of delivery is ex vivo transformation with SB transposons of hematopoietic cells, which then can be reintroduced into the animal for treatment of cancer. We discuss issues associated with the scale-up of hydrodynamic delivery to the liver of larger animals as well as ex vivo delivery. Based on our and others' experience with inefficient delivery to larger animals, we hypothesize that impulse, rather than pressure, is a critical determinant of the effectiveness of hydrodynamic delivery. Accordingly, we propose some alterations in delivery strategies that may yield efficacious levels of gene delivery in dogs and swine that will be applicable to humans. To ready hydrodynamic delivery for human application we address a second issue facing transposons used for gene delivery regarding their potential to "re-hop" from one site to another and thereby destabilize the genome. The ability to correct genetic diseases through the infusion of DNA plasmids remains an appealing goal.

Imaging of T Cells Expressing Chimeric Antigen Receptors

Genetically Modified T Cells Targeting Interleukin-11 Receptor α-chain Kill Human Osteosarcoma Cells and Induce the Regression of Established Osteosarcoma Lung Metastases

The treatment of osteosarcoma pulmonary metastases remains a challenge. T cells genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which recognizes a tumor-associated antigen, have shown activity against hematopoietic malignancies in clinical trials, but this requires the identification of a specific receptor on the tumor cell. In the current study, we found that interleukin (IL)-11Rα was selectively expressed on 14 of 16 osteosarcoma patients' lung metastases and four different human osteosarcoma cell lines, indicating that IL-11Rα may be a novel target for CAR-specific T-cell therapy. IL-11Rα expression was absent or low in normal organ tissues, with the exception of the gastrointestinal tract. IL-11Rα-CAR-specific T cells were obtained by non-viral gene transfer of Sleeping Beauty DNA plasmids and selectively expanded ex vivo using artificial antigen-presenting cells derived from IL-11Rα + K562 cells genetically modified to coexpress T-cell costimulatory molecules. IL-11Rα-CAR(+) T cells killed all four osteosarcoma cell lines in vitro; cytotoxicity correlated with the level of IL-11Rα expression on the tumor cells. Intravenous injection of IL-11Rα-CAR(+) T cells into mice resulted in the regression of osteosarcoma pulmonary metastases with no organ toxicity. Together, the data suggest that IL-11Rα-CAR T cells may represent a new therapy for patients with osteosarcoma pulmonary metastases.

Infusing CD19-Directed T Cells to Augment Disease Control in Patients Undergoing Autologous Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation for Advanced B-Lymphoid Malignancies

Abstract Limited curative treatment options exist for patients with advanced B-lymphoid malignancies, and new therapeutic approaches are needed to augment the efficacy of hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT). Cellular therapies, such as adoptive transfer of T cells that are being evaluated to target malignant disease, use mechanisms independent of chemo- and radiotherapy with nonoverlapping toxicities. Gene therapy is employed to generate tumor-specific T cells, as specificity can be redirected through enforced expression of a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to achieve antigen recognition based on the specificity of a monoclonal antibody. By combining cell and gene therapies, we have opened a new Phase I protocol at the MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX) to examine the safety and feasibility of administering autologous genetically modified T cells expressing a CD19-specific CAR (capable of signaling through chimeric CD28 and CD3-ζ) into patients with high-risk B-lymphoid malignancies undergoing autologous HSCT. The T cells are genetically modified by nonviral gene transfer of the Sleeping Beauty system and CAR(+) T cells selectively propagated in a CAR-dependent manner on designer artificial antigen-presenting cells. The results of this study will lay the foundation for future protocols including CAR(+) T-cell infusions derived from allogeneic sources.

CARs: Driving T-cell Specificity to Enhance Anti-tumor Immunity

Adoptive transfer of antigen-specific T cells is a compelling tool to treat cancer. To overcome issues of immune tolerance which limits the endogenous adaptive immune response to tumor-associated antigens, robust systems for the genetic modification and characterization of T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to redirect specificity have been produced. Refinements with regards to persistence and trafficking of the genetically modified T cells are underway to help improve the potency of genetically modified T cells. Clinical trials utilizing this technology demonstrate feasibility, and increasingly, antitumor activity, paving the way for multi-center trials to establish the efficacy of this novel T-cell therapy.

Membrane-Bound IL-21 Promotes Sustained Ex Vivo Proliferation of Human Natural Killer Cells

NK cells have therapeutic potential for a wide variety of human malignancies. However, because NK cells expand poorly in vitro, have limited life spans in vivo, and represent a small fraction of peripheral white blood cells, obtaining sufficient cell numbers is the major obstacle for NK-cell immunotherapy. Genetically-engineered artificial antigen-presenting cells (aAPCs) expressing membrane-bound IL-15 (mbIL15) have been used to propagate clinical-grade NK cells for human trials of adoptive immunotherapy, but ex vivo proliferation has been limited by telomere shortening. We developed K562-based aAPCs with membrane-bound IL-21 (mbIL21) and assessed their ability to support human NK-cell proliferation. In contrast to mbIL15, mbIL21-expressing aAPCs promoted log-phase NK cell expansion without evidence of senescence for up to 6 weeks of culture. By day 21, parallel expansion of NK cells from 22 donors demonstrated a mean 47,967-fold expansion (median 31,747) when co-cultured with aAPCs expressing mbIL21 compared to 825-fold expansion (median 325) with mbIL15. Despite the significant increase in proliferation, mbIL21-expanded NK cells also showed a significant increase in telomere length compared to freshly obtained NK cells, suggesting a possible mechanism for their sustained proliferation. NK cells expanded with mbIL21 were similar in phenotype and cytotoxicity to those expanded with mbIL15, with retained donor KIR repertoires and high expression of NCRs, CD16, and NKG2D, but had superior cytokine secretion. The mbIL21-expanded NK cells showed increased transcription of the activating receptor CD160, but otherwise had remarkably similar mRNA expression profiles of the 96 genes assessed. mbIL21-expanded NK cells had significant cytotoxicity against all tumor cell lines tested, retained responsiveness to inhibitory KIR ligands, and demonstrated enhanced killing via antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity. Thus, aAPCs expressing mbIL21 promote improved proliferation of human NK cells with longer telomeres and less senescence, supporting their clinical use in propagating NK cells for adoptive immunotherapy.

Adoptive T-cell Therapy Improves Treatment of Canine Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Post Chemotherapy

Clinical observations reveal that an augmented pace of T-cell recovery after chemotherapy correlates with improved tumor-free survival, suggesting the add-back of T cells after chemotherapy may improve outcomes. To evaluate adoptive immunotherapy treatment for B-lineage non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), we expanded T cells from client-owned canines diagnosed with NHL on artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPC) in the presence of human interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-21. Graded doses of autologous T cells were infused after CHOP chemotherapy and persisted for 49 days, homed to tumor, and significantly improved survival. Serum thymidine kinase changes predicted T-cell engraftment, while anti-tumor effects correlated with neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratios and granzyme B expression in manufactured T cells. Therefore, chemotherapy can be used to modulate infused T-cell responses to enhance anti-tumor effects. The companion canine model has translational implications for human immunotherapy which can be readily exploited since clinical-grade canine and human T cells are propagated using identical approaches.

Good T Cells for Bad B Cells

Engineering Lymph Node Homing of Ex Vivo-expanded Human Natural Killer Cells Via Trogocytosis of the Chemokine Receptor CCR7

Natural killer (NK) cells have gained significant attention in adoptive immunotherapy for cancer. Consequently, novel methods of clinical-grade expansion of NK cells have emerged. Subsets of NK cells express a variety of chemokine receptors. However, to expand the scope of adoptively transferred NK cell homing to various malignancies, expression of corresponding chemokine receptors on NK cells is essential. Here, we have explored the use of trogocytosis as a tool to transiently express the chemokine receptor CCR7 on expanded human NK cells with the aim to enhance their homing to lymph nodes. We generated a K562-based "donor" cell line expressing CCR7, Clone9.CCR7, to transfer CCR7 onto NK cells via trogocytosis. CCR7 expression occurred in 80% of expanded NK cells within 1 hour after coculture with Clone9.CCR7. After removal of the donor cells from the coculture, the CCR7 expression on NK cells steadily declined to baseline levels by 72 hours. The acquired CCR7 receptors mediated in vitro migration of NK cells toward CCL19 and CCL21 and increased the lymph node homing by 144% in athymic nude mice. This is the first report on exploiting trogocytosis to rapidly and transiently modify lymphocytes, without direct genetic intervention, for adoptive transfer.

A Foundation for Universal T-cell Based Immunotherapy: T Cells Engineered to Express a CD19-specific Chimeric-antigen-receptor and Eliminate Expression of Endogenous TCR

Clinical-grade T cells are genetically modified ex vivo to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to redirect specificity to a tumor associated antigen (TAA) thereby conferring antitumor activity in vivo. T cells expressing a CD19-specific CAR recognize B-cell malignancies in multiple recipients independent of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) because the specificity domains are cloned from the variable chains of a CD19 monoclonal antibody. We now report a major step toward eliminating the need to generate patient-specific T cells by generating universal allogeneic TAA-specific T cells from one donor that might be administered to multiple recipients. This was achieved by genetically editing CD19-specific CAR(+) T cells to eliminate expression of the endogenous αβ T-cell receptor (TCR) to prevent a graft-versus-host response without compromising CAR-dependent effector functions. Genetically modified T cells were generated using the Sleeping Beauty system to stably introduce the CD19-specific CAR with subsequent permanent deletion of α or β TCR chains with designer zinc finger nucleases. We show that these engineered T cells display the expected property of having redirected specificity for CD19 without responding to TCR stimulation. CAR(+)TCR(neg) T cells of this type may potentially have efficacy as an off-the-shelf therapy for investigational treatment of B-lineage malignancies.

A New Approach to Simultaneously Quantify Both TCR α- and β-chain Diversity After Adoptive Immunotherapy

T-cell receptor (TCR) variable Vα and Vβ gene diversity is a surrogate biomarker for the therapeutic potential of adoptive immunotherapy and cellular immunity. Therefore, creating a straightforward, rapid, sensitive, and reliable method to view the global changes of both TCRVα and Vβ transcripts in heterogeneous populations of T cells is appealing.

Bayesian Continual Reassessment Method for Dose-finding Trials Infusing T Cells with Limited Sample Size

We consider the design of dose-finding trials for patients with malignancies when only a limited sample size is available. The small sample size may be necessary because (1) the modality of treatment is very expensive, and/or (2) the disease under investigation is rare, requiring a lengthy period to enroll a target patient population. Both of these are common in the field of adoptive immunotherapy, in which T cells are infused to prevent and treat infections and malignancies. The clinical trial described in this paper investigates a novel therapy to adoptively transfer genetically modified T cells in small pilot protocols enrolling patients with B-lineage malignancies. Due to the constraints of cost and infrastructure, the maximum sample size for this trial is fixed at 12 patients distributed among four doses of T cells. Given these limitations, an innovative statistical design has been developed to efficiently evaluate the safety, feasibility, persistence, and toxicity profiles of the trial doses. The proposed statistical design is specifically tailored for trials with small sample sizes in that it uses the toxicity outcomes from patients treated at different doses to make dose-finding decisions. Supplementary materials including an R function and a movie demo can be downloaded in the websites mentioned in the paper.

CARs in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia - Ready to Drive

Adoptive transfer of antigen-specific T cells has been adapted by investigators for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). To overcome issues of immune tolerance which limits the endogenous adaptive immune response to tumor-associated antigens (TAAs), robust systems for the genetic modification and characterization of T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to redirect specificity have been produced. Refinements with regards to persistence and trafficking of the genetically modified T cells are underway to help improve potency. Clinical trials utilizing this technology demonstrate feasibility, and increasingly, these early-phase trials are demonstrating impressive anti-tumor effects, particularly for CLL patients, paving the way for multi-center trials to establish the efficacy of CAR(+) T cell therapy.

Cord-blood Engraftment with Ex Vivo Mesenchymal-cell Coculture

Poor engraftment due to low cell doses restricts the usefulness of umbilical-cord-blood transplantation. We hypothesized that engraftment would be improved by transplanting cord blood that was expanded ex vivo with mesenchymal stromal cells.

Imaging of Genetically Engineered T Cells by PET Using Gold Nanoparticles Complexed to Copper-64

Adoptive transfer of primary T cells genetically modified to have desired specificity can exert an anti-tumor response in some patients. To improve our understanding of their therapeutic potential we have developed a clinically-appealing approach to reveal their in vivo biodistribution using nanoparticles that serve as a radiotracer for imaging by positron emission tomography (PET). T cells electroporated with DNA plasmids from the Sleeping Beauty transposon-transposase system to co-express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) specific for CD19 and Firefly luciferase (ffLuc) were propagated on CD19(+) K562-derived artificial antigen presenting cells. The approach to generating our clinical-grade CAR(+) T cells was adapted for electro-transfer of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) functionalized with (64)Cu(2+) using the macrocyclic chelator (1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetraacetic acid, DOTA) and polyethyleneglycol (GNP-(64)Cu/PEG2000). MicroPET/CT was used to visualize CAR(+)EGFPffLucHyTK(+)GNP-(64)Cu/PEG2000(+) T cells and correlated with bioluminescence imaging. These data demonstrate that GNPs conjugated with (64)Cu(2+) can be prepared as a radiotracer for PET and used to image T cells using an approach that has translational implications.

Evaluating Risks of Insertional Mutagenesis by DNA Transposons in Gene Therapy

Investigational therapy can be successfully undertaken using viral- and nonviral-mediated ex vivo gene transfer. Indeed, recent clinical trials have established the potential for genetically modified T cells to improve and restore health. Recently, the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon/transposase system has been applied in clinical trials to stably insert a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) to redirect T-cell specificity. We discuss the context in which the SB system can be harnessed for gene therapy and describe the human application of SB-modified CAR(+) T cells. We have focused on theoretical issues relating to insertional mutagenesis in the context of human genomes that are naturally subjected to remobilization of transposons and the experimental evidence over the last decade of employing SB transposons for defining genes that induce cancer. These findings are put into the context of the use of SB transposons in the treatment of human disease.

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