University of Pennsylvania CAR T Cell Responding and Non-responding Patients
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The adoptive transfer of autologous T cells genetically modified to express a CD19-specific, 4-1BB/CD3zeta-signaling chimeric antigen receptor (CAR; CTL019) has shown remarkable activity in patients with B acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Similar therapy can induce long-term remissions for relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients, but in only a small subset of subjects. The determinants of response and resistance to CTL019 therapy of CLL are not fully understood. We employed next generation sequencing of RNA (RNA-seq) to identify predictive indicators of response to CTL019 treatment. We performed RNA-seq on leukapheresis and manufactured infusion product T cells from patients with heavily pre-treated and high-risk disease. To characterize potency, we also performed RNA-seq on the cellular infusion product after CAR-specific stimulation. Our findings indicate that durable remission in CLL is associated with gene expression signatures of early memory T cell differentiation (e.g., STAT3), while T cells from poorly- or non-responding patients exhibited elevated expression of key regulators of late memory as well as effector T cell differentiation, apoptosis, aerobic glycolysis, hypoxia and exhaustion. These gene expression signatures, along with additional immunological biomarkers, may be used to identify which patients are most likely to respond to cellular therapies and suggest manufacturing modifications that might potentiate the generation of maximally efficacious infusion products.
In a follow-up study, we report multiplex CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing on T cells in humans to test the hypothesis that disrupting genes encoding the endogenous T cell receptor (TCR), TCRα (TRAC) and TCRβ (TRBC), as well as PD-1 (PDCD1) would enhance the efficacy of autologous T cells engineered to express a transgenic NY-ESO TCR. We used single cell RNA-seq to comprehensively characterize the transcriptomic phenotype of this T cell product and its evolution over time in a patient with sarcoma. Notably, this patient's transferred T cells that persisted in vivo demonstrated increases in expression of genes associated with a central memory state (IL7R, TCF7). These findings may guide future trials involving administration of genetically redirected, genome -edited T cells.
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