[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In vivo imaging using genetic reporters is a central supporting tool in the development of cell and gene therapies affording us the ability to selectively track the therapeutic indefinitely. Previous studies have demonstrated the utility of the human norepinephrine transporter (hNET) as a positron emission tomography/single photon emission computed tomography (PET/SPECT) genetic reporter for in vivo cellular imaging. Here, our aim was to extend on this work and construct a tricistronic vector with dual optical (firefly luciferase) and nuclear (hNET) in vivo imaging and ex vivo histochemical capabilities. Guiding this development, we describe how a fluorescent substrate for hNET, 4-(4-(dimethylamino)styryl)-N-methylpyridinium (ASP(+)), can be used to optimise vector design and serve as an in vitro functional screen.
Vectors were designed to co-express a bright red-shifted firefly luciferase (FLuc), hNET and a small marker gene RQR8. Genes were co-expressed using 2A peptide linkage, and vectors were transduced into a T cell line, SupT1. Two vectors were constructed with different gene orientations; FLuc.2A.RQR8.2A.hNET and hNET.2A.FLuc.2A.RQR8. hNET function was assessed using ASP(+)-guided flow cytometry. In vivo cellular conspicuity was confirmed using sequential bioluminescence imaging (BLI) and SPECT imaging of transduced SupT1 cells injected into the flanks of mice.
SupT1/FLuc.2A.RQR8.2A.hNET cells resulted in >4-fold higher ASP(+) uptake compared to SupT1/hNET.2A.FLuc.2A.RQR8, suggesting that 2A orientation effected hNET function. SupT1/FLuc.2A.RQR8.2A.hNET cells were readily visualised with both BLI and SPECT, demonstrating high signal to noise at 24 h post (123)I-meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) administration.
In this study, a pre-clinical tricistronic vector with flow cytometry, BLI, SPECT and histochemical capabilities was constructed, which can be widely applied in cell tracking studies supporting the development of cell therapies. The study further demonstrates that hNET function in engineered cells can be assessed using ASP(+)-guided flow cytometry in place of costly radiosubstrate methodologies. This fluorogenic approach is unique to the hNET PET/SPECT reporter and may prove valuable when screening large numbers of cell lines or vector/mutant constructs.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · European journal of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A compact marker / suicide gene which utilizes established clinical grade reagents and pharmaceuticals would be of considerable practical utility to T-cell cancer gene therapy. Marker genes enable measurement of transduction and allow selection of transduced cells, while suicide genes allow selective deletion of administered T-cells in the face of toxicity. We have created a highly compact marker/suicide gene for T-cells combining target epitopes from both CD34 and CD20 antigens (RQR8). This construct allows selection with the clinically approved CliniMACS CD34 system (Miltenyi). Further, the construct binds the widely used pharmaceutical antibody Rituximab, resulting in selective deletion of transgene expressing cells. We have tested functionality of RQR8 in vitro and in vivo, as well as in combination with T-cell engineering components. We predict that RQR8 will make T-cell gene-therapy both safer and cheaper.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cellular therapies could play a role in cancer treatment and regenerative medicine if it were possible to quickly eliminate the infused cells in case of adverse events. We devised an inducible T-cell safety switch that is based on the fusion of human caspase 9 to a modified human FK-binding protein, allowing conditional dimerization. When exposed to a synthetic dimerizing drug, the inducible caspase 9 (iCasp9) becomes activated and leads to the rapid death of cells expressing this construct.
We tested the activity of our safety switch by introducing the gene into donor T cells given to enhance immune reconstitution in recipients of haploidentical stem-cell transplants. Patients received AP1903, an otherwise bioinert small-molecule dimerizing drug, if graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) developed. We measured the effects of AP1903 on GVHD and on the function and persistence of the cells containing the iCasp9 safety switch.
Five patients between the ages of 3 and 17 years who had undergone stem-cell transplantation for relapsed acute leukemia were treated with the genetically modified T cells. The cells were detected in peripheral blood from all five patients and increased in number over time, despite their constitutive transgene expression. A single dose of dimerizing drug, given to four patients in whom GVHD developed, eliminated more than 90% of the modified T cells within 30 minutes after administration and ended the GVHD without recurrence.
The iCasp9 cell-suicide system may increase the safety of cellular therapies and expand their clinical applications. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00710892.).
Full-text · Article · Nov 2011 · New England Journal of Medicine
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Patients with recurrent or refractory Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) continue to have poor outcomes. Our earlier Phase I dose escalation clinical study of 10 NPC patients showed that infusion of EBV-specific cytotoxic T cells (EBV-CTLs) was safe and had antitumor activity. To better define the overall response rate and discover whether disease status, EBV-antigen specificity, and/or in vivo expansion of infused EBV-CTLs predicted outcome, we treated 13 additional NPC patients with EBV-CTLs in a fixed-dose, Phase II component of the study. We assessed toxicity, efficacy, specificity, and expansion of infused CTLs for all 23 recurrent/refractory NPC patients treated on this Phase I/II clinical study. At the time of CTL infusion, 8 relapsed NPC patients were in remission and 15 had active disease. No significant toxicity was observed. Of the relapsed patients treated in their second or subsequent remission, 62% (5/8) remain disease free (at 17 to 75 mo), whereas 48.7% (7/15) of those with active disease had a CR/CRu (33.3%) or PR (15.4%). In contrast to locoregional disease, metastatic disease was associated with an increased risk of disease progression (HR: 3.91, P=0.015) and decreased overall survival (HR: 5.55, P=0.022). Neither the specificity of the infused CTLs for particular EBV antigens nor their measurable in vivo expansion discernibly influenced outcome. In conclusion, treatment of patients with relapsed/refractory EBV-positive NPC with EBV-CTLs is safe and can be associated with significant, long-term clinical benefit, particularly for patients with locoregional disease.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2010 · Journal of immunotherapy (Hagerstown, Md.: 1997)
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Stem-cell transplantation can cure primary immunodeficiencies. However, in patients with pre-existing organ toxicity, patients younger than 1 year, and those with DNA or telomere repair disorders, chemotherapy-based conditioning is poorly tolerated and results in major morbidity and mortality. We tested a novel antibody-based minimal-intensity conditioning (MIC) regimen to assess whether this approach allowed curative donor stem-cell engraftment without non-haemopoietic toxicity.
16 high-risk patients underwent stem-cell transplantation for primary immunodeficiencies with an MIC regimen consisting of two rat anti-CD45 monoclonal antibodies YTH 24.5 and YTH 54.12 for myelosuppression, and alemtuzumab (anti-CD52) and fludarabine, and low dose cyclophosphamide for immunosuppression. Donors were matched siblings (n=5), and matched (9) and mismatched (2) unrelated donors.
Antibody-based conditioning was well tolerated, with only two cases of grade 3 and no grade 4 toxicity. Rates of clinically significant acute (n=6, 36%) and chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) (n=5, 31%) were acceptable. 15 of 16 patients (94%) engrafted, of whom 11 (69%) achieved full or high-level mixed chimerism in both lymphoid and myeloid lineages, and three achieved engraftment in the T-lymphoid lineage only. One patient needed retransplantation. At a median of 40 months post-transplant, 13 of 16 patients (81%) in this high-risk cohort were alive and cured from their underlying disease.
Monoclonal antibody-based conditioning seems well tolerated and can achieve curative engraftment even in patients with severe organ toxicity or DNA repair defects, or both. This novel approach represents a shift from the paradigm that intensive chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or both, is needed for donor stem-cell engraftment. This antibody-based conditioning regimen may reduce toxicity and late effects and enable SCT in virtually any primary immunodeficiency patient with a matched donor.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-driven posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) is a serious complication of immunosuppression after either stem cell transplantation (SCT) or solid organ transplantation (SOT). Adoptive transfer of EBV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (EBV-CTLs) is an effective prophylaxis and treatment for PTLD after SCT, but not for PTLD after SOT when pharmacologic immunosuppression cannot be discontinued. We report the generation of calcineurin (CN) mutants that render EBV-CTL resistant to the immunosuppressants tacrolimus (FK506) and cyclosporin A (CsA): mutant CNa12 confers resistance to CsA but not FK506, and mutant CNa22 confers resistance to FK506 but not CsA, whereas mutant CNb30 renders CTLs resistant to both calcineurin inhibitors. Untransduced EBV-CTLs do not proliferate in the presence of FK506/CsA. However, EBV-CTLs transduced with a retroviral vector coding for these mutants retain the ability to both proliferate and secrete normal levels of interferon-gamma in the presence therapeutic levels of FK506 (CNa12), CsA (CNa22), or both (CNb30). The cytotoxicity and phenotype of EBV-CTL lines were unaffected by expression of these mutant CNs. This approach should allow effective immunotherapy with EBV-CTLs in the SOT setting without risking the graft by reduction in immunosuppression, and represents a generic approach to improving immunotherapy in the face of immunosuppression.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Treatment of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) with EBV-specific cytotoxic T cells (EBV-specific CTL) has been promising, producing clinical responses. However, infused EBV-specific CTL did not expand in vivo, likely limiting their antitumor activity. Lymphodepleting patients with chemotherapy before T-cell transfer enhances in vivo T-cell expansion, but results in nonspecific destruction of the resident immune system and can have significant toxicity. To evaluate if monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) can produce a more selective lymphodepletion, we conducted a clinical study in which NPC patients received a pair of lymphodepleting mAbs targeted to the CD45 antigen (CD45 mAbs) before EBV-specific CTL infusion. Eight patients with recurrent NPC received CD45 mAbs followed by escalating doses of autologous EBV-specific CTL. Infusion of CD45 mAbs resulted in transient lymphopenia in all patients and an increase in interleukin-15 (IL-15) levels in 6 out 8 patients. All patients had an increase in their peripheral blood frequency of EBV-specific T cells after CTL infusion. Three patients with a persistent increase had clinical benefits including 1 complete response (> 24 months) and 2 with stable disease (for 12 and 15 months). Lymphodepleting mAbs prior CTL transfer may represent an alternative to chemotherapy to enhance expansion of infused CTL. This study is registered at (http://www.clinialtrials.gov) as NCT00608257.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Transfer of either allogeneic or genetically modified T cells as a therapy for malignancies can be accompanied by T cell-mediated tissue destruction. The introduction of an efficient "safety switch" can potentially be used to control the survival of adoptively transferred cell populations and as such reduce the risk of severe graft-vs-host disease. In this study, we have tested the value of an inducible caspase 9-based safety switch to halt an ongoing immune attack in a murine model for cell therapy-induced type I diabetes. The data obtained in this model indicate that self-reactive T cells expressing this conditional safety switch show unimpaired lymphopenia- and vaccine-induced proliferation and effector function in vivo, but can be specifically and rapidly eliminated upon triggering. These data provide strong support for the evaluation of this conditional safety switch in clinical trials of adoptive cell therapy.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · The Journal of Immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated tumors developing in immunocompetent individuals present a challenge to immunotherapy, since they lack expression of immunodominant viral antigens. However, the tumors consistently express viral proteins including LMP2, which are immunologically "weak" but may nonetheless be targets for immune T cells. We previously showed that a majority of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) reactivated using EBV-transformed B-lymphoblastoid cells lines (LCLs) contained minor populations of LMP2-specific T cells and homed to tumor sites. However, they did not produce remissions in patients with bulky disease. We have now used gene transfer into antigen-presenting cells (APCs) to augment the expression and immunogenicity of LMP2. These modified APCs increased the frequency of LMP2-specific CTLs by up to 100-fold compared with unmodified LCL-APCs. The LMP2-specific population expanded and persisted in vivo without adverse effects. Nine of 10 patients treated in remission of high-risk disease remain in remission, and 5 of 6 patients with active relapsed disease had a tumor response, which was complete in 4 and sustained for more than 9 months. It is therefore possible to generate immune responses to weak tumor antigens by ex vivo genetic modification of APCs and the CTLs so produced can have substantial antitumor activity. This study is registered at http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials (protocol IDs: BCM-H-9936, NCT00062868, NCT00070226).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: T cell therapies are increasingly used for the treatment of malignancies and viral-associated diseases. Initial studies focused on the use of unmanipulated T cell populations after allogeneic stem cell transplantation. More recently, the use of antigen-specific T cells has been explored. This chapter reviews the clinical experience with polyclonal Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTL) for the treatment of EBV-associated malignancies. Strategies on how to improve the antitumor activity of EBV-specific CTL are being discussed. If effective, these strategies will have broad implications for T cell therapies for a range of human tumors with defined antigens.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The transduction of primary T cells to express chimeric T cell receptors (cTCR) for redirected targeting of tumor cells is an attractive strategy for generating tumor-specific T cells for adoptive therapy. However, tumor cells rarely provide costimulatory signals and hence cTCRs that transmit just a CD3zeta signal can only initiate target cell killing and interferon-gamma release and fail to induce full activation. Although incorporation of a CD28 component results in IL-2 release and limited proliferation, T cell activation remains incomplete. OX40 transmits a potent and prolonged T cell activation signal and is crucial for maintaining an immunological response. We hypothesize that the CD28-OX40-CD3zeta tripartite cytoplasmic domain will provide a full complement of activation, proliferation, and survival signals for enhanced anti-tumor activity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Viral proteins expressed by EBV-associated tumors provide target Ags for immunotherapy. Adoptive T cell therapy has proven effective for posttransplant EBV-associated lymphoma in which all EBV latent Ags are expressed (type III latency). Application of immunotherapeutic strategies to tumors such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma that have a restricted pattern of EBV Ag expression (type II latency) is under investigation. Potential EBV Ag targets for T cell therapy expressed by these tumors include latent membrane proteins (LMP) 1 and 2. A broad panel of epitopes must be identified from these target Ags to optimize vaccination strategies and facilitate monitoring of tumor-specific T cell populations after immunotherapeutic interventions. To date, LMP2 epitopes have been identified for only a limited number of HLA alleles. Using a peptide library spanning the entire LMP2 sequence, 25 CTL lines from patients with EBV-positive malignancies expressing type II latency were screened for the presence of LMP2-specific T cell populations. In 21 of 25 lines, T cell responses against one to five LMP2 epitopes were identified. These included responses to previously described epitopes as well as to newly identified HLA-A*0206-, A*0204/17-, A29-, A68-, B*1402-, B27-, B*3501-, B53-, and HLA-DR-restricted epitopes. Seven of the nine newly identified epitopes were antigenically conserved among virus isolates from nasopharyngeal carcinoma tumors. These new LMP2 epitopes broaden the diversity of HLA alleles with available epitopes, and, in particular, those epitopes conserved between EBV strains provide valuable tools for immunotherapy and immune monitoring.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2005 · The Journal of Immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adoptive immunotherapy with Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) specific CTL has been successfully used to treat patients with EBV related malignancies including Post Transplant Lymphoproliferative disorder, Hodgkin's lymphoma and Nasopharyngeal carcinoma. However, these and other potentially immunogenic tumors have evolved evasion strategies that subvert the effectiveness of the immune response. One such strategy involves expression of FasL, which likely impedes the host immune response by accelerating the apoptotic death of Fas-expressing tumor infiltrating T-cells.EBV-specific CTL, like most effector memory T cells express high levels of Fas and are highly sensitive to cross-linking of the ligand. We therefore determined whether EBV-specific CTL could be genetically modified to resist FasL-mediated immune evasion. We used retroviral siRNA (pSUPER) directed against the Fas gene product to knockdown receptor expression in tumor-antigen specific CTL. Transduction of CTL with siRNA targeting Fas mRNA significantly knocked down Fas expression compared to control cells expressing an irrelevant siRNA (Fas MFI 107 ± 47 vs. 361 ± 61, p
Full-text · Article · Aug 2005 · Molecular Therapy
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The efficacy of adoptive T-cell therapy as treatment for malignancies may be enhanced by genetic modification of infused cells. However, oncogenic events due to vector/transgene integration, and toxicities due to the infused cells themselves, have tempered enthusiasm. A safe and efficient means of removing aberrant cells in vivo would ameliorate these concerns. We describe a "safety switch" that can be stably and efficiently expressed in human T cells without impairing phenotype, function, or antigen specificity. This reagent is based on a modified human caspase 9 fused to a human FK506 binding protein (FKBP) to allow conditional dimerization using a small molecule pharmaceutical. A single 10-nM dose of synthetic dimerizer drug induces apoptosis in 99% of transduced cells selected for high transgene expression in vitro and in vivo. This system has several advantages over currently available suicide genes. First, it consists of human gene products with low potential immunogenicity. Second, administration of dimerizer drug has no effects other than the selective elimination of transduced T cells. Third, inducible caspase 9 maintains function in T cells overexpressing antiapoptotic molecules. These characteristics favor incorporation of inducible caspase 9 as a safety feature in human T-cell therapies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Effector-memory T cells expressing Fas (Apo-1/CD95) are switched to an apoptotic program by cross-linking with Fas-ligand (FasL). Consequently, tumors that express FasL can induce apoptosis of infiltrating Fas-positive T lymphocytes and subdue any antitumor host immune response. Since Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated tumors such as Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) express FasL, we determined whether EBV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (EBV-CTLs) could be modified to resist this evasion strategy. We show that long-term down-modulation of Fas can be achieved in EBV-CTLs by transduction with small interfering RNA (siRNA) encoded in a retrovirus. Modified T cells resisted Fas/FasL-mediated apoptosis compared with control cells and showed minimal cleavage of the caspase3 substrate poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) protein after Fas engagement. Prolonged Fas stimulation selected a uniformly Fas(low) and FasL resistant population. Removal of responsiveness to this single death signal had no other discernible effects on EBV-CTLs. In particular, it did not lead to their autonomous growth since the modified EBV-CTLs remained polyclonal, and their survival and proliferation retained dependence on antigen-specific stimulation and on the presence of other physiologic growth signals. EBV-CTLs with knocked down Fas should have a selective functional and survival advantage over unmodified EBV-CTLs in the presence of tumors expressing FasL and may be of value for adoptive cellular therapy.