Recent clinical success has underscored the potential for immunotherapy based on the adoptive cell transfer (ACT) of engineered T lymphocytes to mediate dramatic, potent, and durable clinical responses. This success has led to the broader evaluation of engineered T-lymphocyte-based adoptive cell therapy to treat a broad range of malignancies. In this review, we summarize concepts, successes, and challenges for the broader development of this promising field, focusing principally on lessons gleaned from immunological principles and clinical thought. We present ACT in the context of integrating T-cell and tumor biology and the broader systemic immune response.
Luminex bead array assays are widely used for rapid biomarker quantification due to the ability to measure up to 100 unique analytes in a single well of a 96-well plate. There has been, however, no comprehensive analysis of variables impacting assay performance, nor development of a standardized proficiency testing program for laboratories performing these assays. To meet this need, the NIH/NIAID and the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium of the Cancer Research Institute collaborated to develop and implement a Luminex assay proficiency testing program as part of the NIH/NIAID-sponsored External Quality Assurance Program Oversight Laboratory (EQAPOL) at Duke University. The program currently monitors 25 domestic and international sites with two external proficiency panels per year. Each panel includes a de-identified commercial Luminex assay kit with standards to quantify human IFN?, TNF?, IL-6, IL-10 and IL-2, and a series of recombinant cytokine-spiked human serum samples. All aspects of panel development, testing and shipping are performed under GCLP by EQAPOL support teams. Following development testing, a comprehensive site proficiency scoring system comprised of timeliness, protocol adherence, accuracy and precision was implemented. The overall mean proficiency score across three rounds of testing has remained stable (EP3: 76%, EP4: 75%, EP5: 77%); however, a more detailed analysis of site reported results indicates a significant improvement of intra- (within) and inter- (between) site variation, suggesting that training and remediation for poor performing sites may be having a positive impact on proficiency. Through continued proficiency testing, identification of variables affecting Luminex assay outcomes will strengthen efforts to bring standardization to the field.
CCR5 is the major coreceptor for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We investigated whether site-specific modification of the gene ("gene editing")--in this case, the infusion of autologous CD4 T cells in which the CCR5 gene was rendered permanently dysfunctional by a zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN)--is safe.
Many patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are incurable with chemotherapy and may benefit from novel approaches. One such approach involves the transfer of T cells engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for a specific cell-surface antigen. This strategy depends upon preferential expression of the target on tumor cells. To date, the lack of AML-specific surface markers has impeded development of such CAR-based approaches. CD123, the transmembrane ? chain of the interleukin-3 receptor, is expressed in the majority of AML cells but is also expressed in many normal hematopoietic cells. Here, we show that CD123 is a good target for AML-directed CAR therapy, because its expression increases over time in vivo even in initially CD123(dim) populations, and that human CD123-redirected T cells (CART123) eradicate primary AML in immunodeficient mice. CART123 also eradicated normal human myelopoiesis, a surprising finding because anti-CD123 antibody-based strategies have been reportedly well tolerated. Because AML is likely preceded by clonal evolution in "preleukemic" hematopoietic stem cells, our observations support CART123 as a viable AML therapy, suggest that CART123-based myeloablation may be used as a novel conditioning regimen for hematopoietic cell transplantation, and raise concerns for the use of CART123 without such a rescue strategy.
Off-target toxicity due to the expression of target antigens in normal tissue represents a major obstacle to the use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered T cells for treatment of solid malignancies. To circumvent this issue, we established a clinical platform for engineering T cells with transient CAR expression by using in vitro transcribed mRNA encoding a CAR that includes both the CD3-? and 4-1BB co-stimulatory domains. We present two case reports from ongoing trials indicating that adoptive transfer of mRNA CAR T cells that target mesothelin (CARTmeso cells) is feasible and safe without overt evidence of off-tumor on-target toxicity against normal tissues. CARTmeso cells persisted transiently within the peripheral blood after intravenous administration and migrated to primary and metastatic tumor sites. Clinical and laboratory evidence of antitumor activity was demonstrated in both patients and the CARTmeso cells elicited an antitumor immune response revealed by the development of novel anti-self antibodies. These data demonstrate the potential of utilizing mRNA engineered T cells to evaluate, in a controlled manner, potential off-tumor on-target toxicities and show that short-lived CAR T cells can induce epitope-spreading and mediate antitumor activity in patients with advanced cancer. Thus, these findings support the development of mRNA CAR-based strategies for carcinoma and other solid tumors.
Myeloma-directed cellular immune responses after autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) may reduce relapse rates. We studied whether coinjecting the TLR-3 agonist and vaccine adjuvant Poly-ICLC with a MAGE-A3 peptide vaccine was safe and would elicit a high frequency of vaccine-directed immune responses when combined with vaccine-primed and costimulated autologous T cells.
Adoptive immunotherapy, or the infusion of lymphocytes, is a promising approach for the treatment of cancer and certain chronic viral infections. The application of the principles of synthetic biology to enhance T cell function has resulted in substantial increases in clinical efficacy. The primary challenge to the field is to identify tumor-specific targets to avoid off-tumor, on-target toxicity. Given recent advances in efficacy in numerous pilot trials, the next steps in clinical development will require multicenter trials to establish adoptive immunotherapy as a mainstream technology.
MAGE A3, which belongs to the family of cancer-testis antigens, is an attractive target for adoptive therapy given its reactivation in various tumors and limited expression in normal tissues. We developed an affinity-enhanced T cell receptor (TCR) directed to a human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A*01-restricted MAGE A3 antigen (EVDPIGHLY) for use in adoptive therapy. Extensive preclinical investigations revealed no off-target antigen recognition concerns; nonetheless, administration to patients of T cells expressing the affinity-enhanced MAGE A3 TCR resulted in a serious adverse event (SAE) and fatal toxicity against cardiac tissue. We present a description of the preclinical in vitro functional analysis of the MAGE A3 TCR, which failed to reveal any evidence of off-target activity, and a full analysis of the post-SAE in vitro investigations, which reveal cross-recognition of an off-target peptide. Using an amino acid scanning approach, a peptide from the muscle protein Titin (ESDPIVAQY) was identified as an alternative target for the MAGE A3 TCR and the most likely cause of in vivo toxicity. These results demonstrate that affinity-enhanced TCRs have considerable effector functions in vivo and highlight the potential safety concerns for TCR-engineered T cells. Strategies such as peptide scanning and the use of more complex cell cultures are recommended in preclinical studies to mitigate the risk of off-target toxicity in future clinical investigations.
Aberrant regulation of DNA methylation is characteristic of cancer cells and clearly influences phenotypes of various malignancies. Despite clear correlations between DNA methylation and patient outcome, tests that directly measure multiple-locus DNA methylation are typically expensive and technically challenging. Previous studies have demonstrated that the prognosis of patients with acute myeloid leukemia can be predicted by the DNA methylation pattern of 18 loci. We have developed a novel strategy, termed microsphere HpaII tiny fragment enrichment by ligation-mediated PCR (MELP), to simultaneously analyze the DNA methylation pattern at these loci using methylation-specific DNA digestion, fluorescently labeled microspheres, and branched DNA hybridization. The method uses techniques that are inexpensive and easily performed in a molecular laboratory. MELP accurately reflects the methylation levels at each locus analyzed and segregates patients with acute myeloid leukemia into prognostic subgroups. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of MELP as a platform for simultaneous evaluation of DNA methylation of multiple loci.
Whole tumor lysates are promising antigen sources for dendritic cell (DC) therapy as they contain many relevant immunogenic epitopes to help prevent tumor escape. Two common methods of tumor lysate preparations are freeze-thaw processing and UVB irradiation to induce necrosis and apoptosis, respectively. Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) oxidation is a new method for inducing primary necrosis and enhancing the immunogenicity of tumor cells.
An obstacle to cancer immunotherapy has been that the affinity of T-cell receptors (TCRs) for antigens expressed in tumors is generally low. We initiated clinical testing of engineered T cells expressing an affinity-enhanced TCR against HLA-A*01-restricted MAGE-A3. Open-label protocols to test the TCRs for patients with myeloma and melanoma were initiated. The first two treated patients developed cardiogenic shock and died within a few days of T-cell infusion, events not predicted by preclinical studies of the high-affinity TCRs. Gross findings at autopsy revealed severe myocardial damage, and histopathological analysis revealed T-cell infiltration. No MAGE-A3 expression was detected in heart autopsy tissues. Robust proliferation of the engineered T cells in vivo was documented in both patients. A beating cardiomyocyte culture generated from induced pluripotent stem cells triggered T-cell killing, which was due to recognition of an unrelated peptide derived from the striated muscle-specific protein titin. These patients demonstrate that TCR-engineered T cells can have serious and not readily predictable off-target and organ-specific toxicities and highlight the need for improved methods to define the specificity of engineered TCRs.
Blinatumomab is a CD19/CD3-bispecific T-cell receptor-engaging (BiTE) antibody with efficacy in refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Some patients treated with blinatumomab and other T cell-activating therapies develop cytokine release syndrome (CRS). We hypothesized that patients with more severe toxicity may experience abnormal macrophage activation triggered by the release of cytokines by T-cell receptor-activated cytotoxic T cells engaged by BiTE antibodies and leading to hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). We prospectively monitored a patient during blinatumomab treatment and observed that he developed HLH. He became ill 36 hours into the infusion with fever, respiratory failure, and circulatory collapse. He developed hyperferritinemia, cytopenias, hypofibrinogenemia, and a cytokine profile diagnostic for HLH. The HLH continued to progress after discontinuation of blinatumomab; however, he had rapid improvement after IL-6 receptor-directed therapy with tocilizumab. Patients treated with T cell-activating therapies, including blinatumomab, should be monitored for HLH, and cytokine-directed therapy may be considered in cases of life-threatening CRS. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00103285.
Adoptive T cell transfer for cancer and chronic infection is an emerging field that shows promise in recent trials. Synthetic-biology-based engineering of T lymphocytes to express high-affinity antigen receptors can overcome immune tolerance, which has been a major limitation of immunotherapy-based strategies. Advances in cell engineering and culture approaches to enable efficient gene transfer and ex vivo cell expansion have facilitated broader evaluation of this technology, moving adoptive transfer from a "boutique" application to the cusp of a mainstream technology. The major challenge currently facing the field is to increase the specificity of engineered T cells for tumors, because targeting shared antigens has the potential to lead to on-target off-tumor toxicities, as observed in recent trials. As the field of adoptive transfer technology matures, the major engineering challenge is the development of automated cell culture systems, so that the approach can extend beyond specialized academic centers and become widely available.
Chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells with specificity for CD19 have shown promise in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It remains to be established whether chimeric antigen receptor T cells have clinical activity in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Two children with relapsed and refractory pre-B-cell ALL received infusions of T cells transduced with anti-CD19 antibody and a T-cell signaling molecule (CTL019 chimeric antigen receptor T cells), at a dose of 1.4×10(6) to 1.2×10(7) CTL019 cells per kilogram of body weight. In both patients, CTL019 T cells expanded to a level that was more than 1000 times as high as the initial engraftment level, and the cells were identified in bone marrow. In addition, the chimeric antigen receptor T cells were observed in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), where they persisted at high levels for at least 6 months. Eight grade 3 or 4 adverse events were noted. The cytokine-release syndrome and B-cell aplasia developed in both patients. In one child, the cytokine-release syndrome was severe; cytokine blockade with etanercept and tocilizumab was effective in reversing the syndrome and did not prevent expansion of chimeric antigen receptor T cells or reduce antileukemic efficacy. Complete remission was observed in both patients and is ongoing in one patient at 11 months after treatment. The other patient had a relapse, with blast cells that no longer expressed CD19, approximately 2 months after treatment. Chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells are capable of killing even aggressive, treatment-refractory acute leukemia cells in vivo. The emergence of tumor cells that no longer express the target indicates a need to target other molecules in addition to CD19 in some patients with ALL.
Modulation of the immune system by targeting coinhibitory and costimulatory receptors has become a promising new approach of immunotherapy for cancer. The recent approval of the CTLA-4-blocking antibody ipilimumab for the treatment of melanoma was a watershed event, opening up a new era in the field of immunotherapy. Ipilimumab was the first treatment to ever show enhanced overall survival (OS) for patients with stage IV melanoma. However, measuring response rates using standard Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) or modified World Health Organization criteria or progression-free survival does not accurately capture the potential for clinical benefit for ipilimumab-treated patients. As immunotherapy approaches are translated into more tumor types, it is important to study biomarkers, which may be more predictive of OS to identify the patients most likely to have clinical benefit. Ipilimumab is the first-in-class of a series of immunomodulating antibodies that are in clinical development. Anti-PD1 (nivolumab and MK-3475), anti-PD-L1 (BMS-936 559, RG7446, and MEDI4736), anti-CD137 (urelumab), anti-OX40, anti-GITR, and anti-CD40 monoclonal antibodies are just some of the agents that are being actively investigated in clinical trials, each having the potential for combination with the ipilimumab to enhance its effectiveness. Development of rational combinations of immunomodulatory antibodies with small-molecule pathway inhibitor therapies such as vemurafenib makes the discovery of predictive biomarkers even more important. Identifying reliable biomarkers is a necessary step in personalizing the treatment of each patients cancer through a baseline assessment of tumor gene expression and/or immune profile to optimize therapy for the best chance of therapeutic success.
T-cell therapy represents an emerging and promising modality for the treatment of disease. Data from recent clinical trials of genetically modified T cells, most notably chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, have yielded dramatic clinical results and highlighted the potential for this approach to mediate anti-tumor activity. Continued progress in the development of such T-cell therapies will require the identification of the relevant biomarker strategies to support and guide clinical development of the candidate products. In this review, we review and discuss (i) principles for development and use of biomarkers in clinical research, (ii) the rationale and a strategy for the integration of biomarker data at all stages of the product development process, from preclinical studies through product manufacture and during the clinical trial and (iii) the different classes of biomarkers that are relevant to T-cell therapy trials. Throughout this review, we discuss how biomarkers can play a central role in the development of novel T-cell therapeutic agents and highlight how appropriately designed biomarker studies can provide critical insights to this process. Finally, we discuss future directions and challenges for the appropriate development of biomarkers to evaluate product bioactivity and treatment efficacy.
Assays that measure a patients immune response play an increasingly important role in the development of immunotherapies. The inherent complexity of these assays and independent protocol development between laboratories result in high data variability and poor reproducibility. Quality control through harmonization--based on integration of laboratory-specific protocols with standard operating procedures and assay performance benchmarks--is one way to overcome these limitations. Harmonization guidelines can be widely implemented to address assay performance variables. This process enables objective interpretation and comparison of data across clinical trial sites and also facilitates the identification of relevant immune biomarkers, guiding the development of new therapies.
A central role for T cells in the control of cancer has been supported by both animal models and clinical observations. Accordingly, the development of potent anti-tumor T cell immunity has been a long-standing objective of immunotherapy. Emerging data from clinical trials that test T cell immune-modulatory agents and genetically engineered and re-targeted T cells have begun to realize the profound potential of T cell immunotherapy to target cancer. This review will focus on a description of recent conceptual and technological advances for the genetic engineering of T cells to enhance anti-tumor T cell immunity through the introduction of tumor-specific receptors, both Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CAR) and T cell receptors (TcR), as well as an overview of emerging data from ongoing clinical trials that highlight the potential of these approaches to effect dramatic and potent anti-tumor immunity.
Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) modified with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for adoptive immunotherapy of hematologic malignancies are effective in preclinical models and are being tested in several clinical trials. Although CTLs bearing stably expressed CARs generated by integrating viral vectors are efficacious and have potential long-term persistence, this mechanism of CAR expression can potentially result in significant toxicity. T cells were electroporated with an optimized in vitro transcribed RNA encoding a CAR against CD19. These RNA CAR CTLs were then tested in vitro and in vivo for efficacy. We found that T cells expressing an anti-CD19 CAR introduced by electroporation with optimized mRNA were potent and specific killers of CD19 target cells. CD19 RNA CAR T cells given to immunodeficient mice bearing xenografted leukemia rapidly migrated to sites of disease and retained significant target-specific lytic activity. Unexpectedly, a single injection of CD19 RNA CAR T cells reduced disease burden within 1 day after administration, resulting in a significant prolongation of survival in an aggressive leukemia xenograft model. The surface expression of the RNA CARs may be titrated, giving T cells with potentially tunable levels of effector functions such as cytokine release and cytotoxicity. RNA CARs are a genetic engineering approach that should not be subject to genotoxicity, and they provide a platform for rapidly optimizing CAR design before proceeding to more costly and laborious stable expression systems.
Tumor immunotherapy with T lymphocytes, which can recognize and destroy malignant cells, has been limited by the ability to isolate and expand T cells restricted to tumor-associated antigens. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) composed of antibody binding domains connected to domains that activate T cells could overcome tolerance by allowing T cells to respond to cell surface antigens; however, to date, lymphocytes engineered to express CARs have demonstrated minimal in vivo expansion and antitumor effects in clinical trials. We report that CAR T cells that target CD19 and contain a costimulatory domain from CD137 and the T cell receptor ? chain have potent non-cross-resistant clinical activity after infusion in three of three patients treated with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The engineered T cells expanded >1000-fold in vivo, trafficked to bone marrow, and continued to express functional CARs at high levels for at least 6 months. Evidence for on-target toxicity included B cell aplasia as well as decreased numbers of plasma cells and hypogammaglobulinemia. On average, each infused CAR-expressing T cell was calculated to eradicate at least 1000 CLL cells. Furthermore, a CD19-specific immune response was demonstrated in the blood and bone marrow, accompanied by complete remission, in two of three patients. Moreover, a portion of these cells persisted as memory CAR(+) T cells and retained anti-CD19 effector functionality, indicating the potential of this major histocompatibility complex-independent approach for the effective treatment of B cell malignancies.
We designed a lentiviral vector expressing a chimeric antigen receptor with specificity for the B-cell antigen CD19, coupled with CD137 (a costimulatory receptor in T cells [4-1BB]) and CD3-zeta (a signal-transduction component of the T-cell antigen receptor) signaling domains. A low dose (approximately 1.5×10(5) cells per kilogram of body weight) of autologous chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells reinfused into a patient with refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) expanded to a level that was more than 1000 times as high as the initial engraftment level in vivo, with delayed development of the tumor lysis syndrome and with complete remission. Apart from the tumor lysis syndrome, the only other grade 3/4 toxic effect related to chimeric antigen receptor T cells was lymphopenia. Engineered cells persisted at high levels for 6 months in the blood and bone marrow and continued to express the chimeric antigen receptor. A specific immune response was detected in the bone marrow, accompanied by loss of normal B cells and leukemia cells that express CD19. Remission was ongoing 10 months after treatment. Hypogammaglobulinemia was an expected chronic toxic effect.
We presented data showing that the CART-19 cells expressing the 4-1BB signaling domain can have unprecedented and massive in-vivo expansion, traffic to tumor sites, persist long term in vivo, and induce rapid and potent anti-tumor activity in chemotherapy refractory CLL patients.
The introduction of antibody markers to identify undesired cell populations in flow-cytometry based assays, so called DUMP channel markers, has become a practice in an increasing number of labs performing HLA-peptide multimer assays. However, the impact of the introduction of a DUMP channel in multimer assays has so far not been systematically investigated across a broad variety of protocols.
T cell therapy represents an emerging and promising modality for the treatment of both infectious disease and cancer. Data from recent clinical trials have highlighted the potential for this therapeutic modality to effect potent anti-tumor activity. Biomarkers, operationally defined as biological parameters measured from patients that provide information about treatment impact, play a central role in the development of novel therapeutic agents. In the absence of information about primary clinical endpoints, biomarkers can provide critical insights that allow investigators to guide the clinical development of the candidate product. In the context of cell therapy trials, the definition of biomarkers can be extended to include a description of parameters of the cell product that are important for product bioactivity. This review will focus on biomarker studies as they relate to T cell therapy trials, and more specifically: i. An overview and description of categories and classes of biomarkers that are specifically relevant to T cell therapy trials, and ii. Insights into future directions and challenges for the appropriate development of biomarkers to evaluate both product bioactivity and treatment efficacy of T cell therapy trials.
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.
Correlative studies are a primary mechanism through which insights can be obtained about the bioactivity and potential efficacy of candidate therapeutics evaluated in early-stage clinical trials. Accordingly, well designed and performed early-stage correlative studies have the potential to strongly influence further clinical development of candidate therapeutic agents, and correlative data obtained from early stage trials has the potential to provide important guidance on the design and ultimate successful evaluation of products in later stage trials, particularly in the context of emerging clinical trial paradigms such as adaptive trial design. Historically the majority of early stage trials have not generated meaningful correlative data sets that could guide further clinical development of the products under evaluation. In this review article we will discuss some of the potential limitations with the historical approach to performing correlative studies that might explain at least in part the to-date overall failure of such studies to adequately support clinical trial development, and present emerging thought and approaches related to comprehensiveness and quality that hold the promise to support the development of correlative plans which will provide meaningful correlative data that can effectively guide and support the clinical development path for candidate therapeutic agents.
Although target cell cytolysis has been widely employed to describe effector function of cells, cytolysis assays as commonly employed do not generate quantitative data. In this report we describe the development and application of a statistically supported flow cytometry-based assay to quantify cell-mediated cytolysis. The assay depends on the use of the fluorescent dye CFSE to distinguish target from effector cells, the DNA intercalating dye 7AAD to distinguish dead from live cell events, and on the establishment of a cytolysis curve that allows for the derivation of statistically robust data. We demonstrate that the cytolysis curve is well described by a four parameter logistic regression model provided that (i) the range of effector to target (E:T) ratios studied allows for full description of the logistic curve, and (ii) an adequate number of data points are collected to estimate the model parameters. We show that the assay is highly reproducible and accurate, and comparable in sensitivity with the standard (51)Cr assay. We report on the potential for this assay to generate quantitative data on the cytolytic activity of both CD8 T and NK cells; describe a relationship between the efficiency of effector cell degranulation and target cell cytolysis throughout a range of E:T ratios, and demonstrate the potential to multiplex with other platforms to obtain broader datasets for the effector phenotype of cells. Appropriate use of this assay will enhance the ability to derive quantitative and integrated correlative datasets from basic, translational, and clinical studies.
Commentary to: Heat shock protein 110 improves the anti-tumor effects of the cytotoxic T lymphocyte epitope E7 in mice Faliang Ren, Yunsheng Xu, Liwei Mao, Rongying Ou, Zhenzhen Ding, Xueqi Zhang, Jun Tang, Bingxu Li, Zhengcai Jia, Zhiqiang Tian, Bing Ni and Yuzhang Wu.
Immunotherapeutic ablation of lymphoma is a conceptually attractive treatment strategy that is the subject of intense translational research. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) that are genetically modified to express CD19- or CD20-specific, single-chain antibody-derived chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) display HLA-independent antigen-specific recognition/killing of lymphoma targets. Here, we describe our initial experience in applying CAR-redirected autologous CTL adoptive therapy to patients with recurrent lymphoma. Using plasmid vector electrotransfer/drug selection systems, cloned and polyclonal CAR(+) CTLs were generated from autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells and expanded in vitro to cell numbers sufficient for clinical use. In 2 FDA-authorized trials, patients with recurrent diffuse large cell lymphoma were treated with cloned CD8(+) CTLs expressing a CD20-specific CAR (along with NeoR) after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and patients with refractory follicular lymphoma were treated with polyclonal T cell preparations expressing a CD19-specific CAR (along with HyTK, a fusion of hygromycin resistance and HSV-1 thymidine kinase suicide genes) and low-dose s.c. recombinant human interleukin-2. A total of 15 infusions were administered (5 at 10(8)cells/m(2), 7 at 10(9)cells/m(2), and 3 at 2 x 10(9)cells/m(2)) to 4 patients. Overt toxicities attributable to CTL administration were not observed; however, detection of transferred CTLs in the circulation, as measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction, was short (24 hours to 7 days), and cellular antitransgene immune rejection responses were noted in 2 patients. These studies reveal the primary barrier to therapeutic efficacy is limited persistence, and provide the rationale to prospectively define T cell populations intrinsically programmed for survival after adoptive transfer and to modulate the immune status of recipients to prevent/delay antitransgene rejection responses.
Immunotherapy, especially therapeutic vaccination, has a great deal of potential in the treatment of cancer and certain infectious diseases such as HIV (Allison et al., 2006; Fauci et al., 2008; Feldmann and Steinman, 2005). Numerous vaccine candidates have been tested in patients with a variety of tumor types and chronic viral diseases. Often, the best way to assess the clinical potential of these vaccines is to monitor the induced T cell response, and yet there are currently no standards for reporting these results. This letter is an effort to address this problem.
The Cancer Vaccine Consortium of the Cancer Research Institute (CVC-CRI) conducted a multicenter HLA-peptide multimer proficiency panel (MPP) with a group of 27 laboratories to assess the performance of the assay.
We report the safety and tolerability of 87 infusions of lentiviral vector–modified autologous CD4 T cells (VRX496-T; trade name, Lexgenleucel-T) in 17 HIV patients with well-controlled viremia. Antiviral effects were studied during analytic treatment interruption in a subset of 13 patients. VRX496-T was associated with a decrease in viral load set points in 6 of 8 subjects (P = .08). In addition, A ? G transitions were enriched in HIV sequences after infusion, which is consistent with a model in which transduced CD4 T cells exert antisense-mediated genetic pressure on HIV during infection. Engraftment of vector-modified CD4 T cells was measured in gut-associated lymphoid tissue and was correlated with engraftment in blood. The engraftment half-life in the blood was approximately 5 weeks, with stable persistence in some patients for up to 5 years. Conditional replication of VRX496 was detected periodically through 1 year after infusion. No evidence of clonal selection of lentiviral vector–transduced T cells or integration enrichment near oncogenes was detected. This is the first demonstration that gene-modified cells can exert genetic pressure on HIV. We conclude that gene-modified T cells have the potential to decrease the fitness of HIV-1 and conditionally replicative lentiviral vectors have a promising safety profile in T cells.
NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1 are cancer testis antigens with an ideal profile for tumor immunotherapy, combining up-regulation in many cancer types with highly restricted expression in normal tissues and sharing a common HLA-A*0201 epitope, 157-165. Here, we present data to describe the specificity and anti-tumor activity of a bifunctional ImmTAC, comprising a soluble, high-affinity T-cell receptor (TCR) specific for NY-ESO-1157-165 fused to an anti-CD3 scFv. This reagent, ImmTAC-NYE, is shown to kill HLA-A2, antigen-positive tumor cell lines, and freshly isolated HLA-A2- and LAGE-1-positive NSCLC cells. Employing time-domain optical imaging, we demonstrate in vivo targeting of fluorescently labelled high-affinity NYESO-specific TCRs to HLA-A2-, NY-ESO-1157-165-positive tumors in xenografted mice. In vivo ImmTAC-NYE efficacy was tested in a tumor model in which human lymphocytes were stably co-engrafted into NSG mice harboring tumor xenografts; efficacy was observed in both tumor prevention and established tumor models using a GFP fluorescence readout. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to analyze the expression of both NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1 antigens in 15 normal tissues, 5 cancer cell lines, 10 NSCLC, and 10 ovarian cancer samples. Overall, LAGE-1 RNA was expressed at a greater frequency and at higher levels than NY-ESO-1 in the tumor samples. These data support the clinical utility of ImmTAC-NYE as an immunotherapeutic agent for a variety of cancers.
Adoptive immunotherapy using gene engineered T cells is a promising and rapidly evolving field, and the ability to engineer T cells to manifest desired phenotypes and functions has become a practical reality. In this review, we describe and summarize current thought about gene engineering of T cells. We focus on the identified requirements for the successful application of T cell based immunotherapy and discuss gene-therapy based strategies that address these requirements and have the potential to enhance the successful implementation of this promising approach to treat cancer.
Led by key opinion leaders in the field, the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium of the Cancer Research Institute 2012 Scientific Colloquium included 179 participants who exchanged cutting-edge information on basic, clinical and translational cancer immunology and immunotherapy. The meeting revealed how rapidly this field is advancing. The keynote talk was given by Wolf H Fridman and it described the microenvironment of primary and metastatic human tumors. Participants interacted through oral presentations and panel discussions on topics that included host reactions in tumors, advances in imaging, monitoring therapeutic immune modulation, the benefit and risk of immunotherapy, and immune monitoring activities. In summary, the annual meeting gathered clinicians and scientists from academia, industry and regulatory agencies from around the globe to interact and exchange important scientific advances related to tumor immunobiology and cancer immunotherapy.
T cell immunity can potentially eradicate malignant cells and lead to clinical remission in a minority of patients with cancer. In the majority of these individuals, however, there is a failure of the specific T cell receptor (TCR)–mediated immune recognition and activation process. Here we describe the engineering and characterization of new reagents termed immune-mobilizing monoclonal TCRs against cancer (ImmTACs). Four such ImmTACs, each comprising a distinct tumor-associated epitope-specific monoclonal TCR with picomolar affinity fused to a humanized cluster of differentiation 3 (CD3)-specific single-chain antibody fragment (scFv), effectively redirected T cells to kill cancer cells expressing extremely low surface epitope densities. Furthermore, these reagents potently suppressed tumor growth in vivo. Thus, ImmTACs overcome immune tolerance to cancer and represent a new approach to tumor immunotherapy.
The success of adoptive T cell gene transfer for treatment of cancer and HIV is predicated on generating a response that is both durable and safe. We report long-term results from three clinical trials to evaluate gammaretroviral vector-engineered T cells for HIV. The vector encoded a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) composed of CD4 linked to the CD3? signaling chain (CD4?). CAR T cells were detected in 98% of samples tested for at least 11 years after infusion at frequencies that exceeded average T cell levels after most vaccine approaches. The CD4? transgene retained expression and function. There was no evidence of vector-induced immortalization of cells; integration site distributions showed no evidence of persistent clonal expansion or enrichment for integration sites near genes implicated in growth control or transformation. The CD4? T cells had stable levels of engraftment, with decay half-lives that exceeded 16 years, in marked contrast to previous trials testing engineered T cells. These findings indicate that host immunosuppression before T cell transfer is not required to achieve long-term persistence of gene-modified T cells. Further, our results emphasize the safety of T cells modified by retroviral gene transfer in clinical application, as measured in >500 patient-years of follow-up. Thus, previous safety issues with integrating viral vectors are hematopoietic stem cell or transgene intrinsic, and not a general feature of retroviral vectors. Engineered T cells are a promising form of synthetic biology for long-term delivery of protein-based therapeutics. These results provide a framework to guide the therapy of a wide spectrum of human diseases.
A summit on cellular therapy for cancer discussed and presented advances related to the use of adoptive cellular therapy for melanoma and other cancers. The summit revealed that this field is advancing rapidly. Conventional cellular therapies, such as tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL), are becoming more effective and more available. Gene therapy is becoming an important tool in adoptive cell therapy. Lymphocytes are being engineered to express high affinity T cell receptors (TCRs), chimeric antibody-T cell receptors (CARs) and cytokines. T cell subsets with more naïve and stem cell-like characteristics have been shown in pre-clinical models to be more effective than unselected populations and it is now possible to reprogram T cells and to produce T cells with stem cell characteristics. In the future, combinations of adoptive transfer of T cells and specific vaccination against the cognate antigen can be envisaged to further enhance the effectiveness of these therapies.
Mesothelin is a cell-surface glycoprotein present on mesothelial cells and elicits T cell responses in a variety of cancers including pancreatic, biliary and ovarian cancer. Breast cancer is not known to express mesothelin. We postulated that mesothelin may be a unique tumor-associated antigen in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), a less common breast cancer subtype which may have been under-represented in prior studies that characterized mesothelin expression. Therefore, we screened 99 primary breast cancer samples by immunohistochemistry analysis using formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded archival tumor tissues and confirmed that mesothelin was overexpressed in the majority of TNBC (67 %) but only rarely in <5 % ER(+) or Her2-neu(+) breast cancer, respectively. To determine whether mesothelin may be exploited as a novel immunotherapy target in breast cancer, an in vitro cell killing assay was performed to compare the ability of genetically modified T cells expressing a chimeric antibody receptor (CAR) specific for mesothelin (mesoCAR T cells) or non-transduced T cells to kill mesothelin-expressing primary breast cancer cells. A significantly higher anti-tumor cytotoxicity by mesoCAR T cells was observed (31.7 vs. 8.7 %, p < 0.001). Our results suggest that mesothelin has promise as a novel immunotherapy target for TNBC for which effective targeted therapy is lacking to date.
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