T-Cell Gene Therapy in Cancer Immunotherapy: Why It Is No Longer Just CARs on The Road.
ABSTRACT: T-cells have a natural ability to fight cancer cells in the tumour microenvironment. Due to thymic selection and tissue-driven immunomodulation, these cancer-fighting T-cells are generally low in number and exhausted. One way to overcome these issues is to genetically alter T-cells to improve their effectiveness. This process can involve introducing a receptor that has high affinity for a tumour antigen, with two promising candidates known as chimeric-antigen receptors (CARs), or T-cell receptors (TCRs) with high tumour specificity. This review focuses on the editing of immune cells to introduce such novel receptors to improve immune responses to cancer. These new receptors redirect T-cells innate killing abilities to the appropriate target on cancer cells. CARs are modified receptors that recognise whole proteins on the surface of cancer cells. They have been shown to be very effective in haematological malignancies but have limited documented efficacy in solid cancers. TCRs recognise internal antigens and therefore enable targeting of a much wider range of antigens. TCRs require major histocompatibility complex (MHC) restriction but novel TCRs may have broader antigen recognition. Moreover, there are multiple cell types which can be used as targets to improve the "off-the-shelf" capabilities of these genetic engineering methods.
Project description:Antibodies-recognising peptides bound to the major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) represent potentially valuable and promising targets for chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells to treat patients with cancer. Here, a human phage-Fab library has been selected using HLA-A2 complexed with a heteroclitic peptide variant from an epitope shared among multiple melanoma-associated antigens (MAGEs). DNA restriction analyses and phage ELISAs confirmed selection of unique antibody clones that specifically bind to HLA-A2 complexes or HLA-A2-positive target cells loaded with native or heteroclitic peptide. Antibodies selected against heteroclitic peptide, in contrast to native peptide, demonstrated significantly lower to even negligible binding towards native peptide or tumour cells that naturally expressed peptides. The binding to native peptide was not rescued by phage panning with antigen-positive tumour cells. Importantly, when antibodies directed against heteroclitic peptides were engineered into CARs and expressed by T cells, binding to native peptides and tumour cells was minimal to absent. In short, TCR-like antibodies, when isolated from a human Fab phage library using heteroclitic peptide, fail to recognise its native peptide. We therefore argue that peptide modifications to improve antibody selections should be performed with caution as resulting antibodies, either used directly or as CARs, may lose activity towards endogenously presented tumour epitopes.
Project description:Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cells can induce durable remissions in patients with refractory B-lymphoid cancers. By contrast, results applying CAR-modified T cells to solid malignancies have been comparatively modest. Alternative strategies to redirect T cell specificity and cytolytic function are therefore necessary if ACT is to serve a greater role in human cancer treatments. T cell receptors (TCRs) are antigen recognition structures physiologically expressed by all T cells that have complementary, and in some cases superior, properties to CARs. Unlike CARs, TCRs confer recognition to epitopes derived from proteins residing within any subcellular compartment, including the membrane, cytoplasm and nucleus. This enables TCRs to detect a broad universe of targets, such as neoantigens, cancer germline antigens, and viral oncoproteins. Moreover, because TCRs have evolved to efficiently detect and amplify antigenic signals, these receptors respond to epitope densities many fold smaller than required for CAR-signaling. Herein, we summarize recent clinical data demonstrating that TCR-based immunotherapies can mediate regression of solid malignancies, including immune-checkpoint inhibitor refractory cancers. These trials simultaneously highlight emerging mechanisms of TCR resistance. We conclude by discussing how TCR-based immunotherapies can achieve broader dissemination through innovations in cell manufacturing and non-viral genome integration techniques.
Project description:T cells can be re-directed to kill cancer cells using chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or T cell receptors (TCRs). This approach, however, is constrained by the rarity of tumor-specific single antigens. Targeting antigens also found on bystander tissues can cause life-threatening adverse effects. A powerful way to enhance ON-target activity of therapeutic T cells is to engineer them to require combinatorial antigens. Here, we engineer a combinatorially activated T cell circuit in which a synthetic Notch receptor for one antigen induces the expression of a CAR for a second antigen. These dual-receptor AND-gate T cells are only armed and activated in the presence of dual antigen tumor cells. These T cells show precise therapeutic discrimination in vivo-sparing single antigen "bystander" tumors while efficiently clearing combinatorial antigen "disease" tumors. This type of precision dual-receptor circuit opens the door to immune recognition of a wider range of tumors. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Project description:Adoptive transfer of T cells genetically engineered to express a tumor-targeting chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) or T-cell receptor (TCR) can mediate cancer regression in some patients. CARs are synthetic single-chain proteins that use antibody domains to target cell surface antigens. TCRs are natural heterodimeric proteins that can target intracellular antigens through recognition of peptides bound to human leukocyte antigens. CARs have shown promise in B-cell malignancies and TCRs in melanoma, but neither approach has achieved clear success in an epithelial cancer. Treatment of epithelial cancers may be particularly challenging because of a paucity of target antigens expressed by carcinomas and not by important healthy tissues. In addition, epithelial cancers may be protected by inhibitory ligands and soluble factors in the tumor microenvironment. One strategy to overcome these negative regulators is to modulate expression of T-cell genes to enhance intrinsic T-cell function. Programmable nucleases, which can suppress inhibitory genes, and inducible gene expression systems, which can enhance stimulatory genes, are entering clinical testing. Other work is delineating whether control of genes for immune checkpoint receptors (e.g.,PDCD1, CTLA4) and cytokine and TCR signaling regulators (e.g.,CBLB, CISH, IL12, IL15) can increase the antitumor activity of therapeutic T cells.
Project description:Current T-cell engineering approaches redirect patient T cells to tumors by transducing them with antigen-specific T-cell receptors (TCRs) or chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that target a single antigen. However, few truly tumor-specific antigens have been identified, and healthy tissues that express the targeted antigen may undergo T cell-mediated damage. Here we present a strategy to render T cells specific for a tumor in the absence of a truly tumor-restricted antigen. T cells are transduced with both a CAR that provides suboptimal activation upon binding of one antigen and a chimeric costimulatory receptor (CCR) that recognizes a second antigen. Using the prostate tumor antigens PSMA and PSCA, we show that co-transduced T cells destroy tumors that express both antigens but do not affect tumors expressing either antigen alone. This 'tumor-sensing' strategy may help broaden the applicability and avoid some of the side effects of targeted T-cell therapies.
Project description:One important purpose of T cell engineering is to generate tumor-targeted T cells through the genetic transfer of antigen-specific receptors, which consist of either physiological, MHC-restricted T cell receptors (TCRs) or non MHC-restricted chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). CARs combine antigen-specificity and T cell activating properties in a single fusion molecule. First generation CARs, which included as their signaling domain the cytoplasmic region of the CD3zeta or Fc receptor gamma chain, effectively redirected T cell cytotoxicity but failed to enable T cell proliferation and survival upon repeated antigen exposure. Receptors encompassing both CD28 and CD3zeta are the prototypes for second generation CARs, which are now rapidly expanding to a diverse array of receptors with different functional properties. First generation CARs have been tested in phase I clinical studies in patients with ovarian cancer, renal cancer, lymphoma, and neuroblastoma, where they have induced modest responses. Second generation CARs, which are just now entering the clinical arena in the B cell malignancies and other cancers, will provide a more significant test for this approach. If the immunogenicity of CARs can be averted, the versatility of their design and HLA-independent antigen recognition will make CARs tools of choice for T cell engineering for the development of targeted cancer immunotherapies.
Project description:Unlike traditional cancer therapies, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that are typically non-specific, cancer immunotherapy harnesses the high specificity of a patient's own immune system to selectively kill cancer cells. The immune system is the body's main cancer surveillance system, but cancers may evade destruction thanks to various immune-suppressing mechanisms. We therefore need to deploy various immunotherapy-based strategies to help bolster the anti-tumour immune responses. These include engineering T cells to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to specifically recognise tumour neoantigens, inactivating immune checkpoints, oncolytic viruses and dendritic cell (DC) vaccines, which have all shown clinical benefit in certain cancers. However, treatment efficacy remains poor due to drug-induced adverse events and immunosuppressive tendencies of the tumour microenvironment. Recent preclinical studies have unveiled novel therapies such as anti-cathepsin antibodies, galectin-1 blockade and anti-OX40 agonistic antibodies, which may be utilised as adjuvant therapies to modulate the tumour microenvironment and permit more ferocious anti-tumour immune response.
Project description:Effector T cells equipped with engineered antigen receptors specific for cancer targets have proven to be very efficient. Two methods have emerged: the Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) and T-cell Receptor (TCR) redirection. Although very potent, CAR recognition is limited to membrane antigens which represent around 1% of the total proteins expressed, whereas TCRs have the advantage of targeting any peptide resulting from cellular protein degradation. However, TCRs depend on heavy signalling machinery only present in T cells which restricts the type of eligible therapeutic cells. Hence, an introduced therapeutic TCR will compete with the endogenous TCR for the signalling proteins and carries the potential risk of mixed dimer formation giving rise to a new TCR with unpredictable specificity. We have fused a soluble TCR construct to a CAR-signalling tail and named the final product TCR-CAR. We here show that, if expressed, the TCR-CAR conserved the specificity and the functionality of the original TCR. In addition, we demonstrate that TCR-CAR redirection was not restricted to T cells. Indeed, after transduction, the NK cell line NK-92 became TCR positive and reacted against pMHC target. This opens therapeutic avenues combing the killing efficiency of NK cells with the diversified target recognition of TCRs.
Project description:CD4+ T helper cells are a valuable component of the immune response towards cancer. Unfortunately, natural tumour-specific CD4+ T cells occur in low frequency, express relatively low-affinity T cell receptors (TCRs) and show poor reactivity towards cognate antigen. In addition, the lack of human leucocyte antigen (HLA) class II expression on most cancers dictates that these cells are often unable to respond to tumour cells directly. These deficiencies can be overcome by transducing primary CD4+ T cells with tumour-specific HLA class I-restricted TCRs prior to adoptive transfer. The lack of help from the co-receptor CD8 glycoprotein in CD4+ cells might result in these cells requiring a different optimal TCR binding affinity. Here we compared primary CD4+ and CD8+ T cells expressing wild-type and a range of affinity-enhanced TCRs specific for the HLA A*0201-restricted NY-ESO-1- and gp100 tumour antigens. Our major findings are: (i) redirected primary CD4+ T cells expressing TCRs of sufficiently high affinity exhibit a wide range of effector functions, including cytotoxicity, in response to cognate peptide; and (ii) optimal TCR binding affinity is higher in CD4+ T cells than CD8+ T cells. These results indicate that the CD4+ T cell component of current adoptive therapies using TCRs optimized for CD8+ T cells is below par and that there is room for substantial improvement.
Project description:The immune system evolved to distinguish non-self from self to protect the organism. As cancer is derived from our own cells, immune responses to dysregulated cell growth present a unique challenge. This is compounded by mechanisms of immune evasion and immunosuppression that develop in the tumour microenvironment. The modern genetic toolbox enables the adoptive transfer of engineered T cells to create enhanced anticancer immune functions where natural cancer-specific immune responses have failed. Genetically engineered T cells, so-called 'living drugs', represent a new paradigm in anticancer therapy. Recent clinical trials using T cells engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or engineered T cell receptors (TCRs) have produced stunning results in patients with relapsed or refractory haematological malignancies. In this Review we describe some of the most recent and promising advances in engineered T cell therapy with a particular emphasis on what the next generation of T cell therapy is likely to entail.