The development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapeutics is widely recognized as a significant advancement for the treatment of cancer. However, several obstacles currently impede the broad use of CAR T cells, including the inherent process variability, cost of manufacturing, the absolute requirement for precise and uniform genetic editing in the allogeneic setting, and the challenge to keep pace with clonal heterogeneity and tumor growth. Utilizing our previously described induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived T (iT) cell platform, we illustrate here the unique ability to address these challenges by creating a consistent CAR iT cell product that can be repeatedly manufactured in large quantities from a renewable iPSC master cell bank that has been engineered to mitigate the occurrence of graft versus host disease (GvHD), antigen escape and tumor relapse.
Utilizing our proprietary cellular reprogramming and engineering platform and stage-specific T cell differentiation protocol, we demonstrate that iPSC can be engineered at the single cell level to generate a fully characterized clonal iPSC line, which can then be accessed routinely to yield CAR iT cells in a highly scalable manufacturing process (>100,000 fold expansion). Through bi-allelic targeting of a CAR into the T cell receptor alpha constant (TRAC) region, we generated CAR iT cells with uniform CAR expression (99.0 ± 0.5% CAR+) and complete elimination of T cell receptor (TCR) expression to avoid GvHD in the allogeneic setting. We elected to utilize the 1XX-CAR configuration, which has demonstrated superior anti-tumor performance relative to other CAR designs and when introduced into iT cells displayed enhanced antigen specificity (% specific cytotoxicity at E:T=10:1, antigen positive group: 86.4 ± 7.8; antigen null group: 8.9 ± 3.5). To enhance persistence without reliance on exogenous cytokine support, we engineered signaling-fusion complexes, including IL-7 receptor fusion (RF), into iPSC and studied its impact on iT phenotype, persistence, and efficacy. In vitro, IL-7RF clones demonstrated improved anti-tumor activity in a serial antigen dependent tumor challenge assay (Day 10, relative tumor counts, IL-7RF group: 1.95 ± 0.01; control group: 57.56 ± 4.55, P<0.000001). In a preclinical in vivo model of disseminated leukemia, IL-7RF clones demonstrate enhanced tumor growth inhibition (Day 34, Log [BLI], IL-7RF group: 6.68 ± 1.93; control group: 9.99 ± 0.23, P=0.0143). We next investigated a unique strategy to incorporate multi-antigen targeting potential into anti-CD19 1XX CAR iT cells with the addition of a high-affinity non-cleavable CD16 (hnCD16) Fc receptor. The combination of hnCD16 with anti-CD19 1XX CAR culminated in iT cells capable of multi-antigen specificity through combinatorial use with monoclonal antibodies to tackle antigen escape. Utilizing CD19 negative leukemia cells as targets, superior antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) was demonstrated by the combination of hnCD16 CAR iT and Rituximab (% specific cytotoxicity at E:T=1:1, hnCD16 group + Rituximab: 75.64 ± 2.12; control group + Rituximab: 16.98 ± 3.87, P<0.001). To address T cell fitness, the role of CD38 knockout (KO) in T cells was investigated, which we have previously shown to mediate NK cell resistance to oxidative stress induced apoptosis. CD38 gene was disrupted at the iPSC stage to generate 1XX-CAR T cells that lack CD38 expression (% CD38+ population, CD38WT group: 69.67 ± 24.34; CD38KO group: 0.12 ± 0.11) and upon antigen mediated stimulation, CD38KO CAR iT cells showed higher percentages of degranulation (2.3-fold increase in CD107a/b), and IFNγ (4.1-fold increase) and TNFα (2.5-fold increase) production. Antigen specific in vitro tumor killing also was enhanced in CD38KO CAR iT cells (EC50, 3.2-fold decrease). Lastly, to avoid the potential host-mediated rejection, the inclusion of allogeneic defense receptor (ADR) which has been shown to significantly reduce host-mediated rejection will be discussed.
Collectively, the described studies demonstrate that iPSCs are an ideal cellular source to generate large-quantities of uniformly multi-edited off-the-shelf CAR T cell products that include a best-in-class CAR design, enhanced product modalities, and complete elimination of TCR expression to avoid the potential of GvHD while maintaining high anti-tumor efficacy in allogeneic setting.
Hsia:Fate Therapeutics Inc.: Current Employment. Clarke:Fate Therapeutics Inc.: Current Employment, Current equity holder in publicly-traded company. Lee:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Robbins:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Denholtz:Fate Therapeutics, Inc: Current Employment. Hanok:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Carron:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Navarrete:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. ORourke:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Sung:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Gentile:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Nguyen:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Valamehr:Fate Therapeutics, Inc: Current Employment, Current equity holder in publicly-traded company.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.
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