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Acellular scaffold-based approach for in situ genetic engineering of host T-cells in solid tumor immunotherapy.

BACKGROUND: Targeted T-cell therapy has emerged as a promising strategy for the treatment of hematological malignancies. However, its application to solid tumors presents significant challenges due to the limited accessibility and heterogeneity. Localized delivery of tumor-specific T-cells using biomaterials has shown promise, however, procedures required for genetic modification and generation of a sufficient number of tumor-specific T-cells ex vivo remain major obstacles due to cost and time constraints.

METHODS: Polyethylene glycol (PEG)-based three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds were developed and conjugated with positively charged poly-L-lysine (PLL) using carbamide chemistry for efficient loading of lentiviruses (LVs) carrying tumor antigen-specific T-cell receptors (TCRs). The physical and biological properties of the scaffold were extensively characterized. Further, the scaffold loaded with OVA-TCR LVs was implanted in B16F10 cells expressing ovalbumin (B16-OVA) tumor model to evaluate the anti-tumor response and the presence of transduced T-cells.

RESULTS: Our findings demonstrate that the scaffolds do not induce any systemic inflammation upon subcutaneous implantation and effectively recruit T-cells to the site. In B16-OVA melanoma tumor-bearing mice, the scaffolds efficiently transduce host T-cells with OVA-specific TCRs. These genetically modified T-cells exhibit homing capability towards the tumor and secondary lymphoid organs, resulting in a significant reduction of tumor size and systemic increase in anti-tumor cytokines. Immune cell profiling revealed a significantly high percentage of transduced T-cells and a notable reduction in suppressor immune cells within the tumors of mice implanted with these scaffolds.

CONCLUSION: Our scaffold-based T-cell therapy presents an innovative in situ localized approach for programming T-cells to target solid tumors. This approach offers a viable alternative to in vitro manipulation of T-cells, circumventing the need for large-scale in vitro generation and culture of tumor-specific T-cells. It offers an off-the-shelf alternative that facilitates the use of host cells instead of allogeneic cells, thereby, overcoming a major hurdle.

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