High-grade gliomas are extremely difficult to treat because they are invasive and therefore not curable by surgical resection; the toxicity of current chemo- and radiation therapies limits the doses that can be used. Neural stem cells (NSCs) have inherent tumor-tropic properties that enable their use as delivery vehicles to target enzyme/prodrug therapy selectively to tumors. We used a cytosine deaminase (CD)-expressing clonal human NSC line, HB1.F3.CD, to home to gliomas in mice and locally convert the prodrug 5-fluorocytosine to the active chemotherapeutic 5-fluorouracil. In vitro studies confirmed that the NSCs have normal karyotype, tumor tropism, and CD expression, and are genetically and functionally stable. In vivo biodistribution studies demonstrated NSC retention of tumor tropism, even in mice pretreated with radiation or dexamethasone to mimic clinically relevant adjuvant therapies. We evaluated safety and toxicity after intracerebral administration of the NSCs in non-tumor-bearing and orthotopic glioma-bearing immunocompetent and immunodeficient mice. We detected no difference in toxicity associated with conversion of 5-fluorocytosine to 5-fluorouracil, no NSCs outside the brain, and no histological evidence of pathology or tumorigenesis attributable to the NSCs. The average tumor volume in mice that received HB1.F3.CD NSCs and 5-fluorocytosine was about one-third that of the average volume in control mice. On the basis of these results, we conclude that combination therapy with HB1.F3.CD NSCs and 5-fluorocytosine is safe, nontoxic, and effective in mice. These data have led to approval of a first-in-human study of an allogeneic NSC-mediated enzyme/prodrug-targeted cancer therapy in patients with recurrent high-grade glioma.
Parkinsons disease (PD) is a common debilitating neurodegenerative disease. The motor symptoms of PD are caused mainly by a progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons from the substania nigra, resulting in a loss of dopamine production. Current therapies are palliative and, in the long term, ineffective. In addition, some can result in significant clinical side effects. The relatively localized pathology of PD makes it an ideal candidate for cell replacement therapy. Initial efforts focused on fetal cell transplantation, and significant clinical benefit lasting more than 10 years has been reported in some cases. However, the approach is controversial and results have been inconsistent. Inherent limitations of this approach for widespread use are the limited availability and variability of transplant material. In contrast, the self-renewal and differentiation potential of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) make them a promising alternative cell source for cell replacement therapy for PD. Efforts in the past decade have demonstrated that hPSCs can be induced to differentiate in culture to functional dopaminergic neurons. Studies in delivering these cells into PD animal models have demonstrated survival, engraftment, and behavioral deficit improvements. Several groups are developing these cells with clinical trials in mind. Here, we review the state of the technology and consider the suitability of current manufacturing processes, cell purity, and tumorgenicity for clinical testing.
We have previously described a xeno-free scalable system to generate transplantable dopaminergic neurons from human pluripotent stem cells. However, several important questions remain to be answered about our cell therapy efforts. These include determining the exact time at which cells should be transplanted and whether cells at this stage can be frozen, shipped, thawed and injected without compromising their ability to mature and survive the transplantation procedure. We also needed to determine whether further optimization of the culture process could shorten the development time and reduce variability and whether a current Good Manufacture Practice (CGMP) facility could manufacture cells with fidelity.
Human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which include human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) as well as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), represent an important source of cellular therapies in regenerative medicine and the study of early human development. As such, it is becoming increasingly important to develop methods for the large-scale banking of human PSC lines. There are several well-established methods for the propagation of human PSCs. The key to development of a good manufacturing practice (GMP) bank is to determine a manufacturing method that is amenable to large-scale production using materials that are fully documented. We have developed several banks of hESCs using animal feeder cells, animal-based matrices, or animal-free matrices. Protocols for growing hESCs on mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are well established and are very helpful for producing research grade banks of cells. As most human ESCs cultured by research laboratories have been exposed to xenogeneic reagents, it is not imperative that all materials used in the production of a master cell bank be animal-free in origin. Nevertheless, as the field develops, it will no doubt become increasingly important to produce a bank of cells for clinical use without xenogeneic reagents, particularly nonhuman feeder cells which might harbor viruses with potential risk to human health or cell product integrity. Thus, even for cell lines previously exposed to xenogeneic reagents, it is important to minimize any subsequent exposure of the cell lines to additional adventitious agents. We have specifically described procedures for the growth of hESCs on Matrigel, an animal-matrix, and CELLstart, an animal-free matrix, and these can be used to produce hESCs as part of a clinical manufacturing process.
Lentiviral vectors are now in clinical trials for a variety of inherited and acquired disorders. A challenge for moving any viral vector into the clinic is the ability to screen the vector product for the presence of replication-competent virus. Assay development for replication-competent lentivirus (RCL) is particularly challenging because recombination of vector packaging plasmids and cellular DNA leading to RCL has not been reported with the current viral vector systems. Therefore, the genomic structure of a RCL remains theoretical. In this report, we describe a highly sensitive RCL assay suitable for screening vector product and have screened large-scale vector supernatant, cells used in vector production, and cells transduced with clinical grade vector. We discuss the limitations and challenges of the current assay, and suggest modifications that may improve the suitability of this assay for screening US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA)-licensed products.
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells offer tremendous opportunity for the creation of autologous cellular therapies, in which gene correction or the avoidance of immune response issues are desirable. In addition, iPS cells avoid the ethical concerns raised by the sourcing of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) from embryos. iPS cells share many characteristics with hESCs and it is anticipated that existing experience with hESCs will translate to rapid progress in moving iPS cell-derived products toward clinical trials. While the potential clinical value for these products is considerable, the nature of current manufacturing paradigms for autologous iPS cell products raises considerable regulatory concerns. Here, the regulatory challenges posed by autologous iPS cell-derived products are examined. We conclude that there will be considerable regulatory concerns primarily relating to reproducibility of the manufacturing process and safety testing within clinically limited time constraints. Demonstrating safety of the final cell product in an autologous setting will be the single greatest obstacle to progressing autologous iPS cell-based therapies into the clinic.
AIDS patients who develop lymphoma are often treated with transplanted hematopoietic progenitor cells. As a first step in developing a hematopoietic cell-based gene therapy treatment, four patients undergoing treatment with these transplanted cells were also given gene-modified peripheral blood-derived (CD34(+)) hematopoietic progenitor cells expressing three RNA-based anti-HIV moieties (tat/rev short hairpin RNA, TAR decoy, and CCR5 ribozyme). In vitro analysis of these gene-modified cells showed no differences in their hematopoietic potential compared with nontransduced cells. In vitro estimates of successful expression of the anti-HIV moieties were initially as high as 22% but declined to approximately 1% over 4 weeks of culture. Ethical study design required that patients be transplanted with both gene-modified and unmanipulated hematopoietic progenitor cells obtained from the patient by apheresis. Transfected cells were successfully engrafted in all four infused patients by day 11, and there were no unexpected infusion-related toxicities. Persistent vector expression in multiple cell lineages was observed at low levels for up to 24 months, as was expression of the introduced small interfering RNA and ribozyme. Therefore, we have demonstrated stable vector expression in human blood cells after transplantation of autologous gene-modified hematopoietic progenitor cells. These results support the development of an RNA-based cell therapy platform for HIV.
Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) is characterized by upregulation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). We developed a novel strategy to target EGFR by using a therapeutic gene that consisted of an EGFR antisense (AS) gene sequence under U6 promoter control. A phase I clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the safety and biologic effects of EGFR AS.
The stability of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) is of critical importance for both experimental and clinical applications. We find that as an initial response to altered culture conditions, hESCs change their transcription profile for hundreds of genes and their DNA methylation profiles for several genes outside the core pluripotency network. After adaption to conditions of feeder-free defined and/or xeno-free culture systems, expression and DNA methylation profiles are quite stable for additional passaging. However, upon reversion to the original feeder-based culture conditions, numerous transcription changes are not reversible. Similarly, although the majority of DNA methylation changes are reversible, highlighting the plasticity of DNA methylation, a few are persistent. Collectively, this indicates these cells harbor a memory of culture history. For culture-induced DNA methylation changes, we also note an intriguing correlation: hypomethylation of regions 500-2440 bp upstream of promoters correlates with decreased expression, opposite to that commonly seen at promoter-proximal regions. Lastly, changes in regulation of G-coupled protein receptor pathways provide a partial explanation for many of the unique transcriptional changes observed during hESC adaptation and reverse adaptation.
Suspension bioreactors are an attractive alternative to static culture of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for the generation of clinically relevant cell numbers in a controlled system. In this study, we have developed a scalable suspension culture system using serum-free defined media with spinner flasks for hESC expansion as cell aggregates. With optimized cell seeding density and splitting interval, we demonstrate prolonged passaging and expansion of several hESC lines with overall expansion, yield, viability and maintenance of pluripotency equivalent to adherent culture. Human ESCs maintained in suspension as aggregates can be passaged at least 20 times to achieve over 1×10(13) fold calculated expansion with high undifferentiation rate and normal karyotype. Furthermore, the aggregates are able to differentiate to cardiomyocytes in a directed fashion. Finally, we show that the cells can be cryopreserved in serum-free medium and thawed into adherent or suspension cultures to continue passaging and expansion. We have successfully used this method under cGMP or cGMP-equivalent conditions to generate cell banks of several hESC lines. Taken together, our suspension culture system provides a powerful approach for scale-up expansion of hESCs under defined and serum-free conditions for clinical and research applications.
It has been reported that cytomegalovirus (CMV) pp65-specific T cells can protect hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients from CMV complications. Two candidate CMV peptide vaccines composed of the HLA A*0201 pp65(495-503) cytotoxic CD8(+) T-cell epitope fused to 2 different universal T-helper epitopes (either the synthetic Pan DR epitope [PADRE] or a natural Tetanus sequence) were clinically evaluated for safety and ability to elicit pp65 T cells in HLA A*0201 healthy volunteers.
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