Engaging Cytotoxic T and NK Cells for Immunotherapy in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by an acquired immune dysfunction. CLL cells affect the phenotype and function of the entire spectrum of innate and adaptive immune cells, including monocytes, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells, leading to a tumor-supportive environment and reduced immunosurveillance. Novel immunotherapies like immune checkpoint blockade, bi- and tri-specific antibodies, and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells use the patients' immune system to induce therapeutic responses. Although these novel immunotherapies showed impressive results in several B cell lymphomas, responses in CLL were often disappointing. The strong immunomodulatory effect of CLL is believed to play a pivotal role in the low response rates to these immunotherapeutic strategies. In this review, we summarize how CLL influences the function of non-malignant lymphocytes, with a special focus on T and NK cells, two important cellular mediators for immunotherapy. Secondly, we provide a short overview of the activity of several immunotherapeutics in CLL, and discuss how novel strategies may overcome the disappointing response rates in CLL.
Project description:The tumor microenvironment (TME) is greatly multifaceted and immune escape is an imperative attribute of tumors fostering tumor progression and metastasis. Based on reports, the restricted achievement attained by T cell immunotherapy reflects the prominence of emerging other innovative immunotherapeutics, in particular, natural killer (NK) cells-based treatments. Human NK cells act as the foremost innate immune effector cells against tumors and are vastly heterogeneous in the TME. Currently, there exists a rapidly evolving interest in the progress of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered NK cells for tumor immunotherapy. CAR-NK cells superiorities over CAR-T cells in terms of better safety (e.g., absence or minimal cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), engaging various mechanisms for stimulating cytotoxic function, and high feasibility for 'off-the-shelf' manufacturing. These effector cells could be modified to target various antigens, improve proliferation and persistence <i>in vivo</i>, upturn infiltration into tumors, and defeat resistant TME, which in turn, result in a desired anti-tumor response. More importantly, CAR-NK cells represent antigen receptors against tumor-associated antigens (TAAs), thereby redirecting the effector NK cells and supporting tumor-related immunosurveillance. In the current review, we focus on recent progress in the therapeutic competence of CAR-NK cells in solid tumors and offer a concise summary of the present hurdles affecting therapeutic outcomes of CAR-NK cell-based tumor immunotherapies.
Project description:Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by progressive immunosuppression and diminished cancer immunosurveillance. Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB)-based therapies, a major breakthrough against cancer, have emerged as a powerful tool to reinvigorate antitumor responses. Herein, we analyzed the role of the novel inhibitory checkpoint BTLA and its ligand, HVEM, in the regulation of leukemic and natural killer (NK) cells in CLL. Flow cytometry analyses showed that BTLA expression is upregulated on leukemic cells and NK cells from patients with CLL, whereas HVEM is downregulated only in leukemic cells, especially in patients with advanced Rai-Binet stage. In silico analysis revealed that increased <i>HVEM</i>, but not <i>BTLA</i>, mRNA expression in leukemic cells correlated with diminished overall survival. Further, soluble BTLA (sBTLA) was found to be increased in the sera of patients with CLL and highly correlated with poor prognostic markers and shorter time to treatment. BTLA blockade with an anti-BTLA monoclonal antibody depleted leukemic cells and boosted NK cell-mediated responses ex vivo by increasing their IFN-γ production, cytotoxic capability, and antibody-dependent cytotoxicity (ADCC). In agreement with an inhibitory role of BTLA in NK cells, surface BTLA expression on NK cells was associated with poor outcome in patients with CLL. Overall, this study is the first to bring to light a role of BTLA/HVEM in the suppression of NK cell-mediated immune responses in CLL and its impact on patient's prognosis, suggesting that BTLA/HVEM axis may be a potential therapeutic target in this disease.
Project description:Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukemia that affects B lymphocytes in adults. Natural killer (NK) cells in CLL patients are intrinsically potent but display poor <i>in situ</i> effector functions. NKG2D is an activating receptor found on NK and CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells and plays a role in immunosurveillance of CLL. In this study, we developed mono- and dual-targeting triplebodies utilizing a natural ligand for human NKG2D receptor (ULBP2) to retarget NK cells against tumor cells. Triplebodies in both formats showed better ability to induce NK-cell-dependent killing of target cells compared to bispecific counterparts. A mono-targeting triplebody ULBP2-aCD19-aCD19 successfully triggered NK cell effector functions against CLL cell line MEC1 and primary tumor cells in allogenic and autologous settings. Additionally, a dual-targeting triplebody ULBP2-aCD19-aCD33 specific for two distinct tumor-associated antigens was developed to target antigen loss variants, such as mixed lineage leukemia (MLL). Of note, this triplebody exhibited cytotoxic activity against CD19/CD33 double positive cells and retained its binding features even in the absence of one of the tumor antigens. Further, ULBP2-aCD19-aCD19 showed significant <i>in vivo</i> activity in immune-deficient (NSG) mouse model transplanted with CLL cell line as target cells and human immune cells as an effector population providing a proof-of-principle for this therapeutic concept.
Project description:Natural killer (NK) cell is a powerful malignant cells killer, providing rapid immune responses via direct cytotoxicity without the need of antigen processing and presentation. It plays an essential role in preventing early tumor, metastasis and minimal residual disease. Although adoptive NK therapies achieved great success in clinical trials against hematologic malignancies, their accumulation, activation, cytotoxic and immunoregulatory functions are severely impaired in the immunosuppressive microenvironment of solid tumors. Now with better understandings of the tumor evasive mechanisms from NK-mediated immunosurveillance, immunotherapies targeting the key molecules for NK cell dysfunction and exhaustion have been developed and tested in both preclinical and clinical studies. In this review, we introduce the challenges that NK cells encountered in solid tumor microenvironment (TME) and the therapeutic approaches to overcome these limitations, followed by an outline of the recent preclinical advances and the latest clinical outcomes of NK-based immunotherapies, as well as promising strategies to optimize current NK-targeted immunotherapies for solid tumors.
Project description:The inclusion of monoclonal antibodies targeting immune checkpoints such PD-1/PD-L1 or CTLA-4 has revolutionized the landscape of anti-cancer therapy. However, PD-1 and CTLA-4 blockade failed to achieve clinical benefit in CLL, thus attention has been focused on emerging checkpoints in this malignancy. LAG-3 is an immune checkpoint receptor that negatively regulates T cell-mediated responses by inducing an hyporesponsive state, thus promoting tumor escape. Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) develop a profound immune suppression that leads to lessened immunosurveillance and increased risk of developing a secondary neoplasia. In the study herein, we report the profound dysregulation of LAG-3 on leukemic cells in CLL. Likewise, natural killer (NK) and T cells showed increased LAG-3 expression, hence suggesting a role for this checkpoint in CLL-associated immunosuppression. High LAG-3 expression, as well as high levels of soluble LAG-3 (sLAG-3), correlated with adverse cytogenetics and poor outcome in patients with CLL, highlighting the clinical relevance of this immune checkpoint. Treatment of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with CLL with relatlimab, a new anti-LAG-3 blocking antibody currently evaluated in numerous clinical trials, depleted leukemic cells and restored NK cell- and T cell-mediated responses. Moreover, combination of LAG-3 with the immunomodulatory drug (IMiD) lenalidomide significantly increased IL-2 production by T cells and antibody-dependent cytotoxicity (ADCC) mediated by NK cells. Altogether, these data provide new insights into the potential anti-leukemic effects of relatlimab, currently in clinical trials in CLL, and provides the rationale to further investigate its combination with IMiDs for the management of hematological malignancies.
Project description:While chemotherapy and radiotherapy remain the first-line approaches for the management of most unresectable tumors, immunotherapy has emerged in the past two decades as a game-changing treatment, notably with the clinical success of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Immunotherapies aim at (re)activating anticancer immune responses which occur in two main steps: (1) the activation and expansion of tumor-specific T cells following cross-presentation of tumor antigens by specialized myeloid cells (priming phase); and (2) the immunological clearance of malignant cells by these antitumor T lymphocytes (effector phase). Therapeutic vaccines, adjuvants, monoclonal antibodies, cytokines, immunogenic cell death-inducing agents including oncolytic viruses, anthracycline-based chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as adoptive cell transfer, all act at different levels of this cascade to (re)instate cancer immunosurveillance. Intratumoral delivery of these immunotherapeutics is being tested in clinical trials to promote superior antitumor immune activity in the context of limited systemic toxicity.
Project description:Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by an acquired immune dysfunction, which may underlie the hampered efficacy of cellular immunotherapy. Most data on dampened immune responses in CLL come from studies investigating CLL and T cell interactions. Natural killer (NK) cells may be an attractive alternative source of effector cells in immunotherapy in CLL, provided that functionality is retained within the CLL micro-environment. Despite their important role in anti-tumor responses, NK cells are not extensively characterized in CLL. Here, we studied the expression of activating and inhibitory receptors on CLL-derived and healthy control (HC) NK cells, and their functional response towards several stimuli. NK cells from CLL patients have an increased maturation stage, with an expansion of NKG2C<sup>+</sup> NK cells in CMV seropositive individuals. The cytotoxicity receptor NKG2D is downregulated, and the killing capacity through this receptor was markedly reduced in CLL-derived NK cells. In contrast, activation via CD16 (FC?RIII) led to adequate activation and functional responses in CLL-derived NK cells. These findings indicate that NK cells in CLL are not intrinsically defect and still perform effector functions upon adequate activating signaling. Clinical relevance of this finding was shown by treatment with novel nanobody-Fc constructs, which induced cytotoxic responses in both CLL- and HC-derived NK cells via CD16. Our results show that NK cells, in contrast to the T cell compartment, retain their function within the CLL micro-environment, provided that they receive an adequate activating signal. These findings warrant future studies on NK cell mediated immunotherapeutic strategies in CLL.
Project description:Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by chronic clonal expansion of mature CD19-expressing B lymphocytes and global dysfunction of immune effectors, including natural killer (NK) cells. CLL remains incurable, and novel approaches to refractory CLL are needed. Our group has previously described trispecific killer engager (TriKE) molecules that redirect NK cell function against tumor cells. TriKE reagents simultaneously bind an activating receptor on NK cells, CD16, and a tumor antigen while also providing an NK cell expansion signal via an interleukin-15 moiety. Here we developed the novel CD19-targeting 161519 TriKE. We demonstrate that 161519 TriKE induced killing of a CD19-expressing Burkitt's lymphoma cell line and examined the impact on primary CLL targets using healthy donor and patient NK cells. 161519 TriKE induced potent healthy donor NK cell activation, proliferation, and directed killing. Furthermore, 161519 TriKE rescued the inflammatory function of NK cells obtained from CLL patient peripheral blood samples. Finally, we show that 161519 TriKE induced better directed killing of CLL in vitro when compared with rituximab. In conclusion, 161519 TriKE drives a potent activating and proliferative signal on NK cells, resulting in enhanced NK cell expansion and CLL target killing. Our findings indicate the potential immunotherapeutic value of 161519 TriKE in CLL.
Project description:Metastatic tumors are the primary cause of cancer-related mortality. In recent years, interest in the immunologic control of malignancy has helped establish escape from immunosurveillance as a critical requirement for incipient metastases. Our improved understanding of the immune system's interactions with cancer cells has led to major therapeutic advances but has also unraveled a previously unsuspected level of complexity. This review will discuss the vast spatial and functional heterogeneity in the tumor-infiltrating immune system, with particular focus on natural killer (NK) cells, as well as the impact of tumor cell-specific factors, such as secretome composition, receptor-ligand repertoire, and neoantigen diversity, which can further drive immunological heterogeneity. We emphasize how tumor and immunological heterogeneity may undermine the efficacy of T-cell directed immunotherapies and explore the potential of NK cells to be harnessed to circumvent these limitations.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Targeted therapies and immunotherapies are first-line treatments for patients with advanced melanoma. Serine-threonine protein kinase B-RAF (BRAF) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibition leads to a 70% response rate in patients with advanced melanoma with a BRAFV600E /K mutation. However, acquired resistance occurs in the majority of patients, leading to relapse. Immunotherapies that activate immune cytotoxic effectors induce long-lasting responses in 30% of patients. In that context, combination of targeted therapies with immunotherapy (IT) is a promising approach. We considered boosting natural killer (NK) cell tumor immunosurveillance, as melanoma cells express stress-induced molecules and activate NK cell lysis. METHODS:Here we have generated vemurafenib (a BRAF inihibitor)-resistant (R) cells from BRAFV600E SK28 and M14-sensitive (S) melanoma cell lines and investigated how resistance interferes with immunogenicity to NK cells. We determined the levels of several soluble molecules including NK ligands in 61 melanoma patients at baseline and 6?months M post-treatment with targeted therapies or immunotherapies. RESULTS:Vemurafenib resistance involved activation of p-AKT in SK28R and of p-MEK/p-ERK in M14R cells and was accompanied by modulation of NK ligands. Compared with S cells, SK28R displayed an increased expression of natural killer group 2 D (NKG2D) receptor ligands (major histocompatibility complex class (MHC) I chain-related protein A (MICA) and UL16-binding protein 2 (ULBP2)) whereas M14R exhibited decreased ULBP2 . SK28R and M14R cells induced higher NK degranulation and interferon gamma secretion and were more efficiently lysed by donor and patient NK cells. SK28R showed increased tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor II (TRAIL-RII) expression and TRAIL-induced apoptosis, and TRAIL-induced apoptosis of M14R was decreased. Combined BRAF/MEK inhibitors abrogated the growth of SK28S, M14S, and M14R cells, while growth of SK28R was maintained. BRAF/MEK inhibition attenuated NK activity but R cell lines activated polyfunctional NK cells and were lysed with high efficiency. We investigated the relationship of soluble NK ligands and response to treatment in a series of melanoma patients. Soluble NKG2D ligands known to regulate the receptor function have been associated to cancer progression. Serum analysis of patients treated with target therapies or IT indicates that soluble forms of NK ligands (MICA, B7H6, programmed cell death ligand 1, and carcinoembryonic antigen cell adhesion molecule 1) may correlate with clinical response. CONCLUSION:These results support strategies combining targeted therapies and NK-based immunotherapies.