Similar to virus infections, fungal infections are commonly seen in immunosuppressed transplant patients and can be life-threatening. Invasive Aspergillosis and Candidiasis are principal fungal infections among hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) patients, but Aspergillosis and other molds are the leading cause of deaths by fungal infections in immunocompromised allogeneic HSCT patients. The most effective treatment for fungal infections is preemptive and empirical anti-fungal therapies using agents such as fluconazole and amphotericin B deoxycholate (AmB-D). However, the success rate of antifungal therapy is generally low (in the 30–40% range) and associated with high toxicity. Both diagnosis and treatment for fungal infections are expensive and often ineffective. While improved formulations of AmB-D, second-generation triazoles, and echinocandins may be tolerable, newer generations of anti-fungal agents are very expensive. In animal studies, it has been shown that Aspergillosis can be successfully treated using Aspergillus-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTLs). Therefore, it is conceivable that CTLs specific to fungal antigens are effective in controlling fungal infections in allogeneic HSCT patients. To explore anti-fungal immune cell therapy, we used two different approaches to generate fungus-specific immune cells:

  1. Trichoderma and Rhizopus fungal lysates as antigen source to pulse dendritic cells (DCs), and

  2. pooled antigenic peptides to pulse DCs.

The antigen-primed DCs were then co-cultured with lymphocytes to generate antigen-specific immune effector cells. The ex vivo generated anti-fungal immune cells displayed antigen-specific effector functions as illustrated by intracellular IFN-γ and CD107a staining. Interestingly, the fungus-specific immune effector cells are mostly CD4 T cells for all three species of fungal antigens. In a pilot clinical study, patients were selected when diagnosed with invasive aspergillosis based on galactomannan and beta-glucan assays, radiographs, CT scans, and/or blood cultures, or after an extended unsuccessful anti-fungal treatment with non-tolerable organ toxicity. Early indications suggest that the infusion of anti-fungal immune cells is safe, with therapeutic efficacy based on objective clinical evidence and importantly, is cost-effective. Nevertheless, more effective diagnosis and surveillance tools are needed to document the effectiveness of our anti-fungal immune cell treatment.

Disclosures: Chang: Vectorite Biomedica Inc: Research Funding. Liang: Vectorite Biomedica Inc: Employment. Lien: Vectorite Biomedica Inc: Employment. Fu: Vectorite Biomedica Inc: Employment. Yang: Vectorite Biomedica Inc: Employment.

Author notes

Corresponding author