Driving CARs on the uneven road of antigen heterogeneity in solid tumors.
ABSTRACT: Uniform and strong expression of CD19, a cell surface antigen, on cells of B-cell lineage is unique to hematologic malignancies. Tumor-associated antigen (TAA) targets in solid tumors exhibit heterogeneity with regards to intensity and distribution, posing a challenge for chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Novel CAR designs, such as dual TAA-targeted CARs, tandem CARs, and switchable CARs, in conjunction with inhibitory CARs, are being investigated as means to overcome antigen heterogeneity. In addition to heterogeneity in cancer-cell antigen expression, the key determinants for antitumor responses are CAR expression levels and affinity in T cells. Herein, we review CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials for patients with lung or pancreatic cancers, and provide detailed translational strategies to overcome antigen heterogeneity.
Project description:Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have shown great success in the treatment of CD19+ hematological malignancies, leading to their recent approval by the FDA as a new cancer treatment modality. However, their broad use is limited since a CAR targets a single tumor associated antigen (TAA), which is not effective against tumors with heterogeneous TAA expression or emerging antigen loss variants. Further, stably engineered CAR T cells can continually and uncontrollably proliferate and activate in response to antigen, potentially causing fatal on-target off-tumor toxicity, cytokine release syndrome, or neurotoxicity without a method of control or elimination. To address these issues, our lab and others have developed various universal immune receptors (UIRs) that allow for targeting of multiple TAAs by T cells expressing a single receptor. UIRs function through the binding of an extracellular adapter domain which acts as a bridge between intracellular T cell signaling domains and a soluble tumor antigen targeting ligand (TL). The dissociation of TAA targeting and T cell signaling confers many advantages over standard CAR therapy, such as dose control of T cell effector function, the ability to simultaneously or sequentially target multiple TAAs, and control of immunologic synapse geometry. There are currently four unique UIR platform types: ADCC-mediating Fc-binding immune receptors, bispecific protein engaging immune receptors, natural binding partner immune receptors, and anti-tag CARs. These UIRs all allow for potential benefits over standard CARs, but also bring unique engineering challenges that will have to be addressed to achieve maximal efficacy and safety in the clinic. Still, UIRs present an exciting new avenue for adoptive T cell transfer therapies and could lead to their expanded use in areas which current CAR therapies have failed. Here we review the development of each UIR platform and their unique functional benefits, and detail the potential hurdles that may need to be overcome for continued clinical translation.
Project description:Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are versatile synthetic receptors that provide T cells with engineered specificity. Clinical success in treating B-cell malignancies has demonstrated the therapeutic potential of CAR-T cells against cancer, and efforts are underway to expand the use of engineered T cells to the treatment of diverse medical conditions, including infections and autoimmune diseases. Here, we review current understanding of the molecular properties of CARs, how this knowledge informs the rational design and characterization of novel receptors, the successes and shortcomings of CAR-T cells in the clinic, and emerging solutions for the continued improvement of CAR-T cell therapy.
Project description:Adoptive immunotherapy using T lymphocytes genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) holds considerable promise for the treatment of cancer. However, CAR-based therapies may involve on-target toxicity against normal tissues expressing low amounts of the targeted tumor-associated antigen (TAA). To specify T cells for robust effector function that is selective for tumor but not normal tissue, we developed a trans-signaling CAR strategy, whereby T-cell activation signal 1 (CD3z) is physically dissociated from costimulatory signal 2 (CD28) in two CARs of differing antigen specificity: mesothelin and a-folate receptor (FRa). Human T cells were genetically modified to coexpress signal 1 (anti-Meso scFv-CD3z) and signal 2 (anti-FRa scFv-CD28) CARs in trans. Trans-signaling CAR-T cells showed weak cytokine secretion against target cells expressing only one TAA in vitro, similar to first-generation CAR-T cells bearing CD3z only, but showed enhanced cytokine secretion upon encountering natural or engineered tumor cells coexpressing both antigens, equivalent to that of second-generation CAR-T cells with dual signaling in cis. CAR-T cells with dual specificity also showed potent anticancer activity and persistence in vivo, which was superior to first-generation CAR-T cells and equivalent to second-generation CARs. Importantly, second-generation CAR-T cells exhibited potent activity against cells expressing mesothelin alone, recapitulating normal tissue, whereas trans-signaling CAR-T cells did not. Thus, a dual specificity, trans-signaling CAR approach can potentiate the therapeutic efficacy of CAR-T cells against cancer while minimizing parallel reactivity against normal tissues bearing single antigen.
Project description:Currently, the two approved T cell products with chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) are from autologous T cells. These CAR T cells approved for clinical use must be generated on a custom-made basis. This case-by-case autologous T cell production platform remains a significant limiting factor for large-scale clinical application due to the costly and lengthy production process. There is also an inherent risk of production failure. The individualized, custom-made autologous CAR T cell production process also posts constriction on the wide application on diverse tumor types. Therefore, universal allogeneic T cells are needed for the preparation of universal CAR T cells that can serve as the "off-the-shelf" ready-to-use therapeutic agents for large-scale clinical applications. Genome-editing technologies including ZFN (zinc finger nuclease), TALEN (transcription activator-like effector nuclease), and CRISPR-Cas9 are being used to generate the universal third-party T cells. In addition, split, universal, and programmable (SUPRA) CARs are being developed to enhance the flexibility and controllability of CAR T cells. The engineered universal T cells and universal CARs are paving the road for a totally new generation of CAR T cells capable of targeting multiple antigens and/ or being delivered to multiple recipients without re-editing of T cells. This may escalate to a new wave of revolution in cancer immunotherapy. This review summarized the latest advances on designs and development of universal CARs, universal T cells, and clinical application of universal CAR T cells.
Project description:Adoptive immunotherapies composed of T cells engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) offer an attractive strategy for treatment of human cancer. However, CARs have a fixed antigen specificity such that only one tumor-associated antigen (TAA) can be targeted, limiting the efficacy that can be achieved because of heterogeneous TAA expression. For this reason, a more generalized and effective application of CAR therapy would benefit from the capability to produce large panels of CARs against many known TAAs. In this study, we show a novel strategy to extend the recognition specificity potential of a bioengineered lymphocyte population, allowing flexible approaches to redirect T cells against various TAAs. Our strategy employs a biotin-binding immune receptor (BBIR) composed of an extracellular-modified avidin linked to an intracellular T-cell signaling domain. BBIR T cells recognized and bound exclusively to cancer cells pretargeted with specific biotinylated molecules. The versatility afforded by BBIRs permitted sequential or simultaneous targeting of a combination of distinct antigens. Together, our findings show that a platform of universal T-cell specificity can significantly extend conventional CAR approaches, permitting the tailored generation of T cells of unlimited antigen specificity for improving the effectiveness of adoptive T-cell immunotherapies for cancer.
Project description:Recent approval of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)/Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) and the remarkable results of CAR T clinical trials illustrate the curative potential of this therapy. While CARs against a multitude of different antigens are being developed and tested (pre)clinically, there is still a need for optimization. The use of single-chain variable fragments (scFvs) as targeting moieties hampers the quick generation of functional CARs and could potentially limit the efficacy. Instead, nanobodies may largely circumvent these difficulties. We used an available nanobody library generated after immunization of llamas against Cluster of Differentiation (CD) 20 through DNA vaccination or against the ectodomain of CD33 using soluble protein. The nanobody specific sequences were amplified by PCR and cloned by Gibson Assembly into a retroviral vector containing two different second-generation CAR constructs. After transduction in T cells, we observed high cell membrane nanoCAR expression in all cases. Following stimulation of nanoCAR-expressing T cells with antigen-positive cell lines, robust T cell activation, cytokine production and tumor cell lysis both in vitro and in vivo was observed. The use of nanobody technology in combination with PCR and Gibson Assembly allows for the rapid and effective generation of compact CARs.
Project description:T cells genetically modified to stably express immunoreceptors are being assessed for therapeutic potential in clinical trials. T cells expressing a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) are endowed with a new specificity to target tumor-associated antigen (TAA) independent of major histocompatibility complex. Our approach to nonviral gene transfer in T cells uses ex vivo numeric expansion of CAR T cells on irradiated artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPC) bearing the targeted TAA. The requirement for aAPC to express a desired TAA limits the human application of CARs with multiple specificities when selective expansion through coculture with feeder cells is sought. As an alternative to expressing individual TAAs on aAPC, we expressed 1 ligand that could activate CAR T cells for sustained proliferation independent of specificity. We expressed a CAR ligand (designated CARL) that binds the conserved IgG4 extracellular domain of CAR and demonstrated that CARL aAPC propagate CAR T cells of multiple specificities. CARL avoids technical issues and costs associated with deploying clinical-grade aAPC for each TAA targeted by a given CAR. Using CARL enables 1 aAPC to numerically expand all CAR T cells containing the IgG4 domain, and simplifies expansion, testing, and clinical translation of CAR T cells of any specificity.
Project description:Chimeric antigen receptors (CAR)-T cell therapy has recently made promising advances towards treatment of B-cell malignancies. This approach makes use of an antibody-derived single chain variable fragment (scFv)-based CAR to target the CD19 antigen. Currently scFvs are the most common strategy for creation of CARs, but tumor cells can also be targeted using non-antibody based approaches with designs focused on the interaction between natural receptors and their ligands. This emerging strategy has been used in unique ways to target multiple tumor types, including solid and haematological malignancies. In this review, we will highlight the performance of receptor-ligand combinations as designs for CARs to treat cancer, with a particular focus on haematologic malignancies.
Project description:PURPOSE:Targeting nonspecific, tumor-associated antigens (TAA) with chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) requires specific attention to restrict possible detrimental on-target/off-tumor effects. A reduced affinity may direct CAR-engineered T (CAR-T) cells to tumor cells expressing high TAA levels while sparing low expressing normal tissues. However, decreasing the affinity of the CAR-target binding may compromise the overall antitumor effects. Here, we demonstrate the prime importance of the type of intracellular signaling on the function of low-affinity CAR-T cells. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:We used a series of single-chain variable fragments (scFv) with five different affinities targeting the same epitope of the multiple myeloma-associated CD38 antigen. The scFvs were incorporated in three different CAR costimulation designs and we evaluated the antitumor functionality and off-tumor toxicity of the generated CAR-T cells in vitro and in vivo. RESULTS:We show that the inferior cytotoxicity and cytokine secretion mediated by CD38 CARs of very low-affinity (K d < 1.9 × 10-6 mol/L) bearing a 4-1BB intracellular domain can be significantly improved when a CD28 costimulatory domain is used. Additional 4-1BB signaling mediated by the coexpression of 4-1BBL provided the CD28-based CD38 CAR-T cells with superior proliferative capacity, preservation of a central memory phenotype, and significantly improved in vivo antitumor function, while preserving their ability to discriminate target antigen density. CONCLUSIONS:A combinatorial costimulatory design allows the use of very low-affinity binding domains (K d < 1 ?mol/L) for the construction of safe but also optimally effective CAR-T cells. Thus, very-low-affinity scFvs empowered by selected costimulatory elements can enhance the clinical potential of TAA-targeting CARs.
Project description:When optimizing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapy in terms of efficacy, safety, and broadening its application to new malignancies, there are two main clusters of topics to be addressed: the CAR design and the choice of transfected cells. The former focuses on the CAR construct itself. The utilized transmembrane and intracellular domains determine the signaling pathways induced by antigen binding and thereby the cell-specific effector functions triggered. The main part of this review summarizes our understanding of common signaling domains employed in CARs, their interactions among another, and their effects on different cell types. It will, moreover, highlight several less common extracellular and intracellular domains that might permit unique new opportunities. Different antibody-based extracellular antigen-binding domains have been pursued and optimized to strike a balance between specificity, affinity, and toxicity, but these have been reviewed elsewhere. The second cluster of topics is about the cellular vessels expressing the CAR. It is essential to understand the specific attributes of each cell type influencing anti-tumor efficacy, persistence, and safety, and how CAR cells crosstalk with each other and bystander cells. The first part of this review focuses on the progress achieved in adopting different leukocytes for CAR therapy.