Regimen-specific effects of RNA-modified chimeric antigen receptor T cells in mice with advanced leukemia

David M Barrett, Xiaojun Liu, Shuguang Jiang, Carl H June, Stephan A Grupp, Yangbing Zhao
Human Gene Therapy 2013, 24 (8): 717-27
Cytotoxic T lymphocytes modified with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for adoptive immunotherapy of hematologic malignancies have demonstrated activity in early phase clinical trials. While T cells bearing stably expressed CARs are efficacious and have potential long-term persistence, temporary expression of a CAR via RNA electroporation is also potentially efficacious in preclinical models. Temporary CAR expression using RNA presents a method of testing CARs clinically with additional safety where there may be concerns about possible chronic "on-target, off-tumor" toxic effects, as the degradation of RNA ensures complete removal of the CAR over time without relying on suicide induction systems. CD19-directed RNA CAR T cells were tested in vivo for efficacy and comparison to lentiviral vector (LV)-generated stable CAR T cells. We tested the hypothesis that multiple infusions of RNA CAR T cells preceded by lymphodepleting chemotherapy could mediate improved survival and sustained antitumor responses in a robust leukemia xenograft model. The saturation strategy using rationally designed multiple infusions of RNA CARs based on multiple model iterations approached the efficacy of a stable LV expression method. Two-color imaging revealed that relapse was a locoregional phenomenon in both the temporary and the stable expression models. In marked contrast to stably expressed CARs with retroviral or LV technology, the efficacy of RNA CARs appears independent of the costimulatory signaling endodomains likely because they more influence proliferation and persistence rather than short-term efficacy. The efficacy of the RNA CAR infusions may approach that of stably expressed CARs, offer theoretically safer initial clinical testing in addition to suicide systems, and allow for rapid and effective iterative preclinical modeling for the testing of new targets.

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