Background

Autologous CAR T-cell therapy targeting the B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) has shown impressive objective response rates in patients with advanced multiple myeloma (MM). Clinical grade manufacturing of autologous CAR T-cells has limitations including vein-to-vein delivery time delay and potentially sub-optimal immunological capability of T-cells isolated from patients with advanced disease. Allogeneic CAR T-cell products, whereby cells from healthy third-party donors are used to generate an "off-the-shelf" CAR T-cell product, have the potential to overcome some of these issues. To circumvent the primary potential risk of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) associated with the use of allogeneic T-cells, abrogation of the T-cell receptor (TCR) expression in the CAR T-cells, via gene editing, is being actively pursued. To avoid the potential safety risks and manufacturing challenges associated with gene editing, the allogeneic CYAD-211 CAR T-cell product exploits short hairpin RNA (shRNA) interference technology to down-regulate TCR expression thus avoiding the risk of life-threatening GvHD.

Aim

The aim is to generate a BCMA-specific allogeneic CAR T-cell product using a non-gene editing approach and study its activity both in vitro and in vivo. CYAD-211 combines a BCMA-specific CAR with a single optimized shRNA targeting the TCR CD3ζ subunit. Downregulation of CD3ζ impairs the TCR expression on the surface of the donor T-cells, preventing their reactivity with the normal host tissue cells and potential GvHD induction. Maintaining all the elements required for the therapy within a single vector (all-in-one vector) provides some significant manufacturing advantages, as a solitary selection step will isolate cells expressing all the desired traits.

Results

CYAD-211 cells produce high amounts of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) during in vitro co-cultures with various BCMA-expressing MM cell lines (i.e., RPMI-8226, OPM-2, U266, and KMS-11). Cytotoxicity experiments confirmed that CYAD-211 efficiently kills MM cell lines in a BCMA-specific manner. The anti-tumor efficacy of CYAD-211 was further confirmed in vivo, in xenograft MM models using the RPMI-8226 and KMS-11 cell lines. Preclinical data also showed no demonstrable evidence of GvHD when CYAD-211 was infused in NSG mice confirming efficient inhibition of TCR-induced activation.

Following FDA acceptance of the IND application, IMMUNICY-1, a first-in-human, open-label dose-escalation phase I clinical study evaluating the safety and clinical activity of CYAD-211 for the treatment of relapsed or refractory MM patients to at least two prior MM treatment regimens, is scheduled to begin recruitment.

IMMUNICY-1 will evaluate three dose-levels of CYAD-211 (3x107, 1x108 and 3x108 cells/infusion) administered as a single infusion after a non-myeloablative conditioning (cyclophosphamide 300 mg/m²/day and fludarabine 30 mg/m²/day, daily for 3 days) according to a classical Fibonacci 3+3 design. Description of the study design and preliminary safety and clinical data from the first cohort will be presented at ASH 2020.

Conclusion

CYAD-211 is the first generation of non-gene edited allogeneic CAR T-cell product based on shRNA technology. The IMMUNICY-1 clinical study seeks to provide proof of principle that single shRNA-mediated knockdown can generate fully functional allogeneic CAR T-cells in humans without GvHD-inducing potential. We anticipate that subsequent generations of this technology will incorporate multiple shRNA hairpins within a single vector system. This will enable the production of allogeneic CAR T-cells in which multiple genes of interest are modulated simultaneously thereby providing a platform approach that can underpin the future of this therapeutic modality.

Disclosures

Al-Homsi:Celyad: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Brayer:Janssen: Consultancy; Bristol-Myers Squibb, WindMIL Therapeutics: Research Funding; Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen, Amgen: Speakers Bureau. Nishihori:Novartis: Other: Research support to institution; Karyopharm: Other: Research support to institution. Sotiropoulou:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Twyffels:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Bolsee:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Braun:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Lonez:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Gilham:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Flament:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Lehmann:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment.

Author notes

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Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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