Background: Peripheral T-cell lymphomas (PTCL) encompass a highly heterogeneous group of T-cell malignancies and are generally associated with a poor prognosis. Combination chemotherapy results in consistently poorer outcomes for T-cell lymphomas compared with B-cell lymphomas.1 There is an urgent clinical need to develop novel approaches to treatment of PTCL. While CD19- and CD20-directed immunotherapies have been successful in the treatment of B-cell malignancies, T-cell malignancies lack suitable immunotherapeutic targets. Brentuximab Vedotin, a CD30 antibody-drug conjugate, is not applicable to PTCL subtypes which do not express CD30.2 Broadly targeting pan-T cell markers is predicted to result in extensive T-cell depletion and clinically significant immune deficiency; therefore, a more tumor-specific antigen that primarily targets the malignant T-cell clone is needed. We reasoned that since malignant T cells are clonal and express the same T-cell receptor (TCR) in a given patient, and since the TCR β chain in human α/β TCRs can be grouped into 24 functional Vβ families targetable by monoclonal antibodies, immunotherapeutic targeting of TCR Vβ families would be an attractive strategy for the treatment of T-cell malignancies.

Methods: We developed a flexible approach for targeting TCR Vβ families by engineering T cells to express a CD64 chimeric immune receptor (CD64-CIR), comprising a CD3ζ T cell signaling endodomain, CD28 costimulatory domain, and the high-affinity Fc gamma receptor I, CD64. T cells expressing CD64-CIR are predicted to be directed to tumor cells by Vβ-specific monoclonal antibodies that target tumor cell TCR, leading to T cell activation and induction of tumor cell death by T cell-mediated cytotoxicity.

Results: This concept was first evaluated in vitro using cell lines. SupT1 T-cell lymphoblasts, which do not express a native functioning TCR, were stably transduced to express a Vβ12+ MART-1 specific TCR, resulting in a Vβ12 TCR expressing target T cell line.3 Vβ family specific cytolysis was confirmed by chromium release assays using co-culture of CD64 CIR transduced T cells with the engineered SupT1-Vβ12 cell line in the presence of Vβ12 monoclonal antibody. Percent specific lysis was calculated as (experimental - spontaneous lysis / maximal - spontaneous lysis) x 100. Controls using no antibody, Vβ8 antibody, and untransduced T cells did not show significant cytolysis (figure A). Next, the Jurkat T cell leukemic cell line, which expresses a native Vβ8 TCR, was used as targets in co-culture. Again, Vβ family target specific cytolysis was achieved in the presence of CD64 CIR T cells and Vβ8, but not Vβ12 control antibody.

Having demonstrated Vβ family specific cytolysis in vitro using target T cell lines, we next evaluated TCR Vβ family targeting in vivo. Immunodeficient mice were injected with SupT1-Vβ12 or Jurkat T cells with the appropriate targeting Vβ antibody, and either CD64 CIR T cells or control untransduced T cells. The cell lines were transfected with firefly luciferase and tumor growth was measured by bioluminescence. The CD64 CIR T cells, but not untransduced T cells, in conjunction with the appropriate Vβ antibody, successfully controlled tumor growth (figure B).

Our results provide proof-of-concept that TCR Vβ family specific T cell-mediated cytolysis is feasible, and informs the development of novel immunotherapies that target TCR Vβ families in T-cell malignancies. Unlike approaches that target pan-T cell antigens, this approach is not expected to cause substantial immune deficiency and could lead to a significant advance in the treatment of T-cell malignancies including PTCL.


1. Coiffier B, Brousse N, Peuchmaur M, et al. Peripheral T-cell lymphomas have a worse prognosis than B-cell lymphomas: a prospective study of 361 immunophenotyped patients treated with the LNH-84 regimen. The GELA (Groupe d'Etude des Lymphomes Agressives). Ann Oncol Off J Eur Soc Med Oncol. 1990;1(1):45-50.

2. Horwitz SM, Advani RH, Bartlett NL, et al. Objective responses in relapsed T-cell lymphomas with single agent brentuximab vedotin. Blood. 2014;123(20):3095-3100.

3. Hughes MS, Yu YYL, Dudley ME, et al. Transfer of a TCR Gene Derived from a Patient with a Marked Antitumor Response Conveys Highly Active T-Cell Effector Functions. Hum Gene Ther. 2005;16(4):457-472.


Schuster:Novartis, Genentech, Inc./ F. Hoffmann-La Roche: Research Funding; AlloGene, AstraZeneca, BeiGene, Genentech, Inc./ F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Juno/Celgene, Loxo Oncology, Nordic Nanovector, Novartis, Tessa Therapeutics: Consultancy, Honoraria.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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