Background

T-cells engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) based on the NKG2D receptor (NKG2D CAR) targeting the 8 NKG2D ligands (MICA/B, ULBP1-6) over-expressed by a large variety of malignancies have been developped to treat patients, including patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

Previously, CYAD-01, the first generation of NKG2D CAR T-cell products, was evaluated in several Phase I clinical trials and showed initial signals of objective clinical responses in patients with r/r AML and MDS, albeit with short durability. Preclinical data have shown that NKG2D ligands MICA and MICB are transiently upregulated on activated CAR T-cells, and target-dependent killing of CAR T-cells post-infusion can potentially occur, leading to short in vivo persistence. In an effort to increase the persistence and potency of the NKG2D CAR T-cells, CYAD-02 was developed as a next-generation product using a non-gene editing approach to silence the expression of MICA and MICB.

Aim

MICA and MICB were down-regulated by inserting a single optimized short hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting both MICA and MICB within the NKG2D CAR construct. This next-generation NKG2D CAR T-cell product is manufactured with the OptimAb process, resulting in CAR T-cells with a higher frequency of early memory T-cells secreting high levels of cytokines upon activation, and is referred to as CYAD-02.

Results

As compared to CYAD-01, CYAD-02 cell expansion in vitro was 3-fold increased. In an in vivo AML model, CYAD-02 showed 10-fold higher engraftment 1 week after injection and improved anti-tumor activity as compared to CYAD-01 manufactured with the initial mAb process. This led to a 2.6-fold increase of mouse survival as compared to CYAD-01 in a stress-test aggressive AML model where the dose of CYAD-01 was titrated down for minimal activity (figure).

The first-in-human study evaluating CYAD-02, the CYCLE-1 study (NCT04167696), has been initiated in early 2020 in patients with r/r AML/MDS. The study evaluates three dose-levels of CYAD-02 (1x108, 3x108 and 1x109 cells/infusion), administered as a single infusion after non-myeloablative preconditioning chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide 300 mg/m²/day and fludarabine 30 mg/m²/day, daily for 3 days, CyFlu) according to a classical Fibonacci 3+3 design.

As of August 2020, 6 patients have been treated with CYAD-02 at the dose of 1x108 or 3x108 cells/infusion. To date, the results demonstrate the safety and tolerability for CYAD-02 in patients with r/r AML and MDS with no dose-limiting toxicity observed. The study is currently enrolling at 1x109 cells/infusion. The CYAD-02 safety profile and preliminary clinical activity data together with the pharmacokinetics evaluation from the complete dose escalation segment will be provided at the time of presentation.

Conclusion/summary

The CYAD-02 is the first autologous CAR T-cell product based on the non-gene edited shRNA technology used to treat patients. This next generation NKG2D CAR T-cell product is currently investigated in the CYCLE-1 Phase I study in r/r AML/MDS patient population, a difficult to target disease due in part to the absence of truly AML-specific surface antigens, its rapid clinical progression and the absence of disease control by the CyFlu preconditioning. Both the anti-MICA and MICB shRNA hairpin and the OptimAb manufacturing process for CYAD-02 aim to improve CAR T-cell persistence and clinical responses.

Disclosures

Lin:Mateon Therapeutics: Research Funding; Aptevo: Research Funding; Abbvie: Research Funding; Ono Pharmaceutical: Research Funding; Incyte: Research Funding; Gilead Sciences: Research Funding; Jazz: Research Funding; Astellas Pharma: Research Funding; Bio-Path Holdings: Research Funding; Celgene: Research Funding; Celyad: Research Funding; Genetech-Roche: Research Funding; Seattle Genetics: Research Funding; Tolero Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding; Trovagene: Research Funding; Prescient Therapeutics: Research Funding; Pfizer: Research Funding. Demoulin:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Fontaine:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Sotiropoulou:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Alcantar-Orozco:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Breman:Celyad Oncology: Current Employment. Dheur: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.