Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphocytes that target malignant cells via non-clonotypic receptors to induce natural cytotoxicity and that recognize tumor-bound antibodies to induce antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Human NK cells exclusively mediate ADCC through the IgG Fc receptor, CD16A, and studies have demonstrated that increasing the binding affinity between CD16A and therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), mediated by the high-affinity 158V polymorphism, can augment clinical efficacy. Given the exquisite specificity and diverse antigen detection of anti-tumor mAbs, we sought to arm iPSC-derived NK (iNK) cells expressing a high-affinity recombinant FcγR with various mAbs as unique tumor-targeting strategy for various malignancies.

As a member of the FcγR family, CD64 (FcγRI) possesses the highest affinity and can uniquely facilitate antibody preabsorption but it is normally expressed by myeloid cells. To leverage CD64 in NK cells, we developed a novel FcγR recombinant fusion comprising the extracellular region of CD64 with the transmembrane and intracellular regions of other NK cell activating receptors, including CD16A (CD64/16A) (figure 1A). The recombinant CD64/16A engineered into a clonal master induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) line for mass production of off-the-shelf iPSC-derived CD64/16A NK (iNK-CD64/16A) cells, can be armed with mAbs, including various combinations thereof to enable multi-antigen targeting and to address tumor heterogeneity (figures 1B and 2).

To determine optimal binding and FcR saturation of iNK-CD64/16 cells, rituximab (anti-CD20 therapeutic mAb) was added in a two-hour preabsorbtion assay (figure 3A). Using an in vitro Delfia® ADCC assay, we show that iNK-CD64/16A cells mediated ADCC against Raji cells, a Burkitt Lymphoma cell line, when the iNKs were preabsorbed and armed with rituximab (figure 3B). Considering the high-affinity state of CD64, we examined the effects of free IgG on ADCC by iNK-CD64/16A cells. Using an IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis, ADCC was evaluated in the presence of purified human IgG. Despite the high levels of excess IgG, iNK-CD64/16A cells mediated efficient ADCC when rituximab was either added to the assay (figure 4A) or preabsorbed to the cells (figure 4B), demonstrating that saturating levels of free IgG did not prevent ADCC in either setting. To determine the ability of preabsorbed and armed iNK-CD64/16 cells to retain rituximab and perform serial killing, we performed a sequential killing assay using an IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis where preabsorbed iNK-CD64/16A cells were thawed and co-cultured with or without Raji cells for 48 hours, followed by a second round of co-culture. As shown in figure 5, iNK-CD64/16A cells armed with rituximab retain ADCC capacity and perform serial killing for an extended time.

To establish that iNK-CD64/16A cells can be armed with assorted therapeutic mAbs to target other tumor-associated antigens, we next determined the ability of iNK-CD64/16A cells preabsorbed and armed with anti-HER2 mAb, trastuzumab, to target the adenocarcinoma ovarian cancer cell line SKOV-3. Indeed iNK-CD64/16A cells armed with preabsorbed trastuzumab were able to effectively kill SKOV-3 cells via in vitro ADCC by IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis (figure 6). We next investigated in vivo ADCC using NSG mice implanted with 3x10 5 SKOV-3 cells expressing firefly luciferase intraperitoneally (IP). 10 million iNK-CD64/16A with or without preabsorbed trastuzumab were injected IP (figure 7A), and a significant reduction in tumor volume in animals treated with iNK-CD64/16A cells armed with trastuzumab compared to unarmed iNK-CD64/16A cells (figure 7B).

Collectively, our data show that iNK-CD64/16A cells can be armed with various therapeutic mAbs through a unique preabsorption strategy to mediate a potent and durable ADCC activity. The versatility of mAb-armed iNK-CD64/16A cells is being further investigated in various preclinical models to further elucidate the potential of this approach to overcome antigen escape and address tumor heterogeneity.


Lee:Fate Therapeutics, Inc: Current Employment. Chu:Fate Therapeutics: Current Employment. Rogers:Fate Therapeutics: Current Employment. Bjordahl:Fate Therapeutics: Current Employment. Hosking:Fate Therapeutics: Current Employment. Shirinbak:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Miller:Fate Therapeutics, Inc: Consultancy, Patents & Royalties, Research Funding; GT Biopharma: Consultancy, Patents & Royalties, Research Funding; Vycellix: Consultancy; ONK Therapeutics: Honoraria, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Magenta: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Sanofi: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Wugen: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Valamehr:Fate Therapeutics, Inc.: Current Employment. Walcheck:Fate Therapeutics: Research Funding.

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