T cells can be genetically modified ex vivo to redirect specificity upon enforced expression of a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that recognizes tumor-associated antigen (TAA) independent of human leukocyte antigen. We report a new approach to non-viral gene transfer using the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon/transposase system to stably express a 2nd generation CD19-specific CAR- (designated CD19RCD28 that activates via CD3z/CD28) in autologous and allogeneic T cells manufactured in compliance with current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) for Phase I/II trials.
T cells were electroporated using a Nucleofector device to synchronously introduce DNA plasmids coding for SB transposon (CD19RCD28) and hyperactive SB transposase (SB11). T cells stably expressing the CAR were retrieved over 28 days of co-culture by recursive additions of g-irradiated artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPC) in presence of soluble recombinant interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-21. The aAPC (designated clone #4) were derived from K562 cells and genetically modified to co-express the TAA CD19 as well as the co-stimulatory molecules CD86, CD137L, and a membrane-bound protein of IL-15. The dual platforms of the SB system and aAPC are illustrated in figure below.
To date we have enrolled and manufactured product for 25 patients with multiply-relapsed ALL (n=12) or B-cell lymphoma (n=13) on three investigator-initiated trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center to administer thawed patient- and donor-derived CD19-specific T cells as planned infusions in the adjuvant setting after autologous (n=7), allogeneic adult (n=14) or umbilical cord (n=4) hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT). Each clinical-grade T-cell product was subjected to a battery of in-process testing to complement release testing under CLIA. Currently, five patients have been infused with the CAR+ T cells following allogeneic HSCT, including one patient with cord blood-derived T cells (ALL, n=4; NHL, n=1), beginning at a dose of 106 and escalating to 107 modified T cells/m2. Three patients treated at the first dose level of 106 T cells/m2 have progressed; the patient treated at the next dose level with 107 T cells/m2 remains in remission at 5 months following HSCT. Assessment for response too early for patient treated with UCB T cells. Four patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have been treated with patient-derived modified T cells following autologous HSCT at a dose of 5x107 T cells/m2, and all patients remain in remission at 3 months following HSCT. No acute or late toxicities have been noted to date. PCR testing for persistence of CAR-modified T cells is underway.
We report the first human application of the SB and aAPC systems to genetically modify clinical-grade cells. Importantly, infusing CD19-specific CAR+ T cells in the adjuvant HSCT setting and thus targeting minimal residual disease is feasible and safe, and may provide an effective approach for maintaining remission in patients with high risk, CD19+ lymphoid malignancies. Clinical data is accruing and will be updated at the meeting. This nimble manufacturing approach can be readily modified in a cost-effective manner to improve the availability, persistence and therapeutic potential of genetically modified T cells, as well as target tumor–associated antigens other than CD19.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.
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