Enhancing CAR T cell persistence through ICOS and 4-1BB costimulation.
ABSTRACT: Successful tumor eradication by chimeric antigen receptor-expressing (CAR-expressing) T lymphocytes depends on CAR T cell persistence and effector function. We hypothesized that CD4+ and CD8+ T cells may exhibit distinct persistence and effector phenotypes, depending on the identity of specific intracellular signaling domains (ICDs) used to generate the CAR. First, we demonstrate that the ICOS ICD dramatically enhanced the in vivo persistence of CAR-expressing CD4+ T cells that, in turn, increased the persistence of CD8+ T cells expressing either CD28- or 4-1BB-based CARs. These data indicate that persistence of CD8+ T cells was highly dependent on a helper effect provided by the ICD used to redirect CD4+ T cells. Second, we discovered that combining ICOS and 4-1BB ICDs in a third-generation CAR displayed superior antitumor effects and increased persistence in vivo. Interestingly, we found that the membrane-proximal ICD displayed a dominant effect over the distal domain in third-generation CARs. The optimal antitumor and persistence benefits observed in third-generation ICOSBBz CAR T cells required the ICOS ICD to be positioned proximal to the cell membrane and linked to the ICOS transmembrane domain. Thus, CARs with ICOS and 4-1BB ICD demonstrate increased efficacy in solid tumor models over our current 4-1BB-based CAR and are promising therapeutics for clinical testing.
Project description:With the notable exception of B-cell malignancies, the efficacy of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells has been limited, and CAR T cells have not been shown to expand and persist in patients with nonlymphoid tumors. Here we demonstrate that redirection of primary human T cells with a CAR containing the inducible costimulator (ICOS) intracellular domain generates tumor-specific IL-17-producing effector cells that show enhanced persistence. Compared with CARs containing the CD3? chain alone, or in tandem with the CD28 or the 4-1BB intracellular domains, ICOS signaling increased IL-17A, IL-17F, and IL-22 following antigen recognition. In addition, T cells redirected with an ICOS-based CAR maintained a core molecular signature characteristic of TH17 cells and expressed higher levels of RORC, CD161, IL1R-1, and NCS1. Of note, ICOS signaling also induced the expression of IFN-? and T-bet, consistent with a TH17/TH1 bipolarization. When transferred into mice with established tumors, TH17 cells that were redirected with ICOS-based CARs mediated efficient antitumor responses and showed enhanced persistence compared with CD28- or 4-1BB-based CAR T cells. Thus, redirection of TH17 cells with a CAR encoding the ICOS intracellular domain is a promising approach to augment the function and persistence of CAR T cells in hematologic malignancies.
Project description:T cell engineering is a powerful means to rapidly generate anti-tumor T cells. The costimulatory properties of second-generation chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) determine the overall potency of adoptively transferred T cells. Using an in vivo "stress test" to challenge CD19-targeted T cells, we studied the functionality and persistence imparted by seven different CAR structures providing CD28 and/or 4-1BB costimulation. One configuration, which uses two signaling domains (CD28 and CD3?) and the 4-1BB ligand, provided the highest therapeutic efficacy, showing balanced tumoricidal function and increased T cell persistence accompanied by an elevated CD8/CD4 ratio and decreased exhaustion. Remarkably, induction of the IRF7/IFN? pathway was required for optimal anti-tumor activity. Thus, 1928z-41BBL T cells possess strikingly potent intrinsic and immunomodulatory qualities.
Project description:To generate chimeric Ag receptors (CARs) for the adoptive immunotherapy of cancer patients with ErbB2-expressing tumors, a single-chain Ab derived from the humanized mAb 4D5 Herceptin (trastuzumab) was initially linked to T cell signaling domains derived from CD28 and the CD3zeta to generate a CAR against ErbB2. Human PBLs expressing the 4D5 CAR demonstrated Ag-specific activities against ErbB2(+) tumors. However, a gradual loss of transgene expression was noted for PBLs transduced with this 4D5 CAR. When the CD3zeta signaling domain of the CAR was truncated or mutated, loss of CAR expression was not observed, suggesting that the CD3zeta signaling caused the transgene decrease, which was supported by the finding that T cells expressing 4D5 CARs with CD3zeta ITAM mutations were less prone to apoptosis. By adding 4-1BB cytoplasmic domains to the CD28-CD3zeta signaling moieties, we found increased transgene persistence in 4D5 CAR-transduced PBLs. Furthermore, constructs with 4-1BB sequences demonstrated increased cytokine secretion and lytic activity in 4D5 CAR-transduced T cells. More importantly, PBLs expressing this new version of the 4D5 CAR could not only efficiently lyse the autologous fresh tumor digests, but they could strongly suppress tumor growth in a xenogenic mouse model.
Project description:Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) have an antigen-binding domain fused to transmembrane, costimulatory, and CD3? domains. Two CARs with regulatory approval include a CD28 or 4-1BB costimulatory domain. While both CARs achieve similar clinical outcomes, biologic differences have become apparent but not completely understood. Therefore, in this study we aimed to identify mechanistic differences between 4-1BB and CD28 costimulation that contribute to the biologic differences between the 2 CARs and could be exploited to enhance CAR T cell function. Using CD19-targeted CAR T cells with 4-1BB we determined that enhancement of T cell function is driven by NF-?B. Comparison to CAR T cells with CD28 also revealed that 4-1BB is associated with more antiapoptotic proteins and dependence on persistence for B cell killing. While TNF receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2) has been presupposed to be required for 4-1BB costimulation in CAR T cells, we determined that TRAF1 and TRAF3 are also critical. We observed that TRAFs impacted CAR T viability and proliferation, as well as cytotoxicity and/or cytokines, in part by regulating NF-?B. Our study demonstrates how 4-1BB costimulation in CAR T cells impacts antitumor eradication and clinical outcomes and has implications for enhanced CAR design.
Project description:Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) link an antigen recognition domain to intracellular signaling domains to redirect T cell specificity and function. T cells expressing CARs with CD28/CD3? or 4-1BB/CD3? signaling domains are effective at treating refractory B cell malignancies but exhibit differences in effector function, clinical efficacy, and toxicity that are assumed to result from the activation of divergent signaling cascades. We analyzed stimulation-induced phosphorylation events in primary human CD8+ CD28/CD3? and 4-1BB/CD3? CAR T cells by mass spectrometry and found that both CAR constructs activated similar signaling intermediates. Stimulation of CD28/CD3? CARs activated faster and larger-magnitude changes in protein phosphorylation, which correlated with an effector T cell-like phenotype and function. In contrast, 4-1BB/CD3? CAR T cells preferentially expressed T cell memory-associated genes and exhibited sustained antitumor activity against established tumors in vivo. Mutagenesis of the CAR CD28 signaling domain demonstrated that the increased CD28/CD3? CAR signal intensity was partly related to constitutive association of Lck with this domain in CAR complexes. Our data show that CAR signaling pathways cannot be predicted solely by the domains used to construct the receptor and that signal strength is a key determinant of T cell fate. Thus, tailoring CAR design based on signal strength may lead to improved clinical efficacy and reduced toxicity.
Project description:Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) reactivations are associated with lower overall survival after transplantations. Adoptive transfer of HCMV-reactive expanded or selected T cells can be applied as a compassionate use, but requires that the human leukocyte antigen-matched donor provides memory cells against HCMV. To overcome this, we developed engineered T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) targeted against the HCMV glycoprotein B (gB) expressed upon viral reactivation. Single-chain variable fragments (scFvs) derived from a human high-affinity gB-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibody (SM5-1) were fused to CARs with 4-1BB (BBL) or CD28 (28S) costimulatory domains and subcloned into retroviral vectors. CD4<sup>+</sup> and CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells obtained from HCMV-seronegative adult blood or cord blood (CB) transduced with the vectors efficiently expressed the gB-CARs. The specificity and potency of gB-CAR-T cells were demonstrated and compared <i>in vitro</i> using the following: 293T cells expressing gB, and with mesenchymal stem cells infected with a HCMV TB40 strain expressing <i>Gaussia</i> luciferase (HCMV/GLuc). BBL-gB-CAR-T cells generated with adult or CB demonstrated significantly higher <i>in vitro</i> activation and cytotoxicity performance than 28-gB-CAR-T cells. Nod.Rag.Gamma (NRG) mice transplanted with human CB CD34<sup>+</sup> cells with long-term human immune reconstitution were used to model HCMV/GLuc infection <i>in vivo</i> by optical imaging analyses. One week after administration, response to BBL-gB-CAR-T cell therapy was observed for 5/8 mice, defined by significant reduction of the bioluminescent signal in relation to untreated controls. Response to therapy was sporadically associated with CAR detection in spleen. Thus, exploring scFv derived from the high-affinity gB-antibody SM5-1 and the 4-1BB signaling domain for CAR design enabled an <i>in vitro</i> high on-target effect and cytotoxicity and encouraging results <i>in vivo</i>. Therefore, gB-CAR-T cells can be a future clinical option for treatment of HCMV reactivations, particularly when memory T cells from the donors are not available.
Project description:Persistence of T cells engineered with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) has been a major barrier to use of these cells for molecularly targeted adoptive immunotherapy. To address this issue, we created a series of CARs that contain the T cell receptor-zeta (TCR-zeta) signal transduction domain with the CD28 and/or CD137 (4-1BB) intracellular domains in tandem. After short-term expansion, primary human T cells were subjected to lentiviral gene transfer, resulting in large numbers of cells with >85% CAR expression. In an immunodeficient mouse xenograft model of primary human pre-B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, human T cells expressing anti-CD19 CARs containing CD137 exhibited the greatest antileukemic efficacy and prolonged (>6 months) survival in vivo, and were significantly more effective than cells expressing CARs containing TCR-zeta alone or CD28-zeta signaling receptors. We uncovered a previously unrecognized, antigen-independent effect of CARs expressing the CD137 cytoplasmic domain that likely contributes to the enhanced antileukemic efficacy and survival in tumor bearing mice. Furthermore, our studies revealed significant discrepancies between in vitro and in vivo surrogate measures of CAR efficacy. Together these results suggest that incorporation of the CD137 signaling domain in CARs should improve the persistence of CARs in the hematologic malignancies and hence maximize their antitumor activity.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive disease that currently lacks effective targeted therapy. NKG2D ligands (NKG2DLs) are expressed on various tumor types and immunosuppressive cells within tumor microenvironments, providing suitable targets for cancer therapy. METHODS:We applied a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) approach for the targeting of NKG2DLs expressed on human TNBCs. Lentiviral vectors were used to express the extracellular domain of human NKG2D that binds various NKG2DLs, fused to signaling domains derived from T cell receptor CD3 zeta alone or with CD27 or 4-1BB (CD137) costimulatory domain. RESULTS:Interleukin-2 (IL-2) promoted the expansion and self-enrichment of NKG2D-redirected CAR T cells in vitro. High CD25 expression on first-generation NKG2D CAR T cells was essential for the self-enrichment effect in the presence of IL-2, but not for CARs containing CD27 or 4-1BB domains. Importantly, self-enriched NKG2D CAR T cells effectively recognized and eliminated TNBC cell lines in vitro, and adoptive transfer of T cells expressing NKG2D CARs with CD27 or 4-1BB specifically enhanced NKG2D CAR surface expression, T cell persistence, and the regression of established MDA-MB-231 TNBC in vivo. NKG2D-z CAR T cells lacking costimulatory domains were less effective, highlighting the need for costimulatory signals. CONCLUSIONS:These results demonstrate that CD27 or 4-1BB costimulated, self-enriched NKG2D CAR-redirected T cells mediate anti-tumor activity against TNBC tumor, which represent a promising immunotherapeutic approach to TNBC treatment.
Project description:Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-expressing T cells targeting B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) have activity against multiple myeloma, but improvements in anti-BCMA CARs are needed. We demonstrated recipient anti-CAR T-cell responses against a murine single-chain variable fragment (scFv) used clinically in anti-BCMA CARs. To bypass potential anti-CAR immunogenicity and to reduce CAR binding domain size, here we designed CARs with antigen-recognition domains consisting of only a fully human heavy-chain variable domain without a light-chain domain. A CAR designated FHVH33-CD8BBZ contains a fully human heavy-chain variable domain (FHVH) plus 4-1BB and CD3? domains. T cells expressing FHVH33-CD8BBZ exhibit similar cytokine release, degranulation, and mouse tumor eradication as a CAR that is identical except for substitution of a scFv for FHVH33. Inclusion of 4-1BB is critical for reducing activation-induced cell death and promoting survival of T cells expressing FHVH33-containing CARs. Our results indicate that heavy-chain-only anti-BCMA CARs are suitable for evaluation in a clinical trial.
Project description:The efficacy of T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for solid tumors has been limited by insufficient CAR T cell expansion and persistence. The use of virus-specific T cells (VSTs) as carriers for CARs may overcome this limitation since CAR-VSTs can be boosted by viral vaccines or oncolytic viruses. However, there is limited understanding of the optimal combination of endodomains and their influence on the native T cell receptor (TCR) in VSTs. We therefore compared the function of GD2.CARs expressing the TCR zeta chain (?) alone or combined with endodomains from CD28 and 4-1BB in varicella zoster virus-specific (VZV) T cells. VZVSTs expressing GD2-CARs recognized VZV-derived peptides and killed GD2-expressing tumor cells. However, after repeated stimulation through their native TCR, the expansion of GD2-CAR.CD28?-VZVSTs was 3.3-fold greater (p < 0.001) than non-transduced VZVSTs, whereas GD2-CAR?- and GD2-CAR.41BB? inhibited VZVST expansion (p < 0.01). Compared to control VZVSTs, GD2-CAR.? VZVSTs showed a greater frequency of apoptotic (p < 0.01) T cells, whereas prolonged downregulation of the native ?? TCR was observed in GD2-CAR.41BB? VZVSTs (p < 0.001). We confirmed that CD28? can best maintain TCR function by expressing GD2.CARs in Epstein-Barr virus-specific T cells and CD19-CARs in VZVSTs. In response to CAR stimulation VSTs with CD28? endodomains also showed the greatest expansion (6 fold > GD2-CAR.41BB? VZVSTs (p < 0.001), however anti-tumor efficacy was superior in GD2-CAR.41BB?-VZVSTs. These findings demonstrate that CAR signaling domains can enhance or diminish the function of the native TCR and indicate that only CD28? may preserve the function of the native TCR in tonically signaling CAR-VSTs.