All Publications

  • Engineered CD47 protects T cells for enhanced antitumour immunity. Nature Yamada-Hunter, S. A., Theruvath, J., McIntosh, B. J., Freitas, K. A., Lin, F., Radosevich, M. T., Leruste, A., Dhingra, S., Martinez-Velez, N., Xu, P., Huang, J., Delaidelli, A., Desai, M. H., Good, Z., Polak, R., May, A., Labanieh, L., Bjelajac, J., Murty, T., Ehlinger, Z., Mount, C. W., Chen, Y., Heitzeneder, S., Marjon, K. D., Banuelos, A., Khan, O., Wasserman, S. L., Spiegel, J. Y., Fernandez-Pol, S., Kuo, C. J., Sorensen, P. H., Monje, M., Majzner, R. G., Weissman, I. L., Sahaf, B., Sotillo, E., Cochran, J. R., Mackall, C. L. 2024


    Adoptively transferred T cells and agents designed to block the CD47-SIRPα axis are promising cancer therapeutics that activate distinct arms of the immune system1,2. Here we administered anti-CD47 antibodies in combination with adoptively transferred T cells with the goal of enhancing antitumour efficacy but observed abrogated therapeutic benefit due to rapid macrophage-mediated clearance of T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or engineered T cell receptors. Anti-CD47-antibody-mediated CAR T cell clearance was potent and rapid enough to serve as an effective safety switch. To overcome this challenge, we engineered the CD47 variant CD47(Q31P) (47E), which engages SIRPα and provides a 'don't eat me' signal that is not blocked by anti-CD47 antibodies. TCR or CAR T cells expressing 47E are resistant to clearance by macrophages after treatment with anti-CD47 antibodies, and mediate substantial, sustained macrophage recruitment to the tumour microenvironment. Although many of the recruited macrophages manifested an M2-like profile3, the combined therapy synergistically enhanced antitumour efficacy. Our study identifies macrophages as major regulators of T cell persistence and illustrates the fundamental challenge of combining T-cell-directed therapeutics with those designed to activate macrophages. It delivers a therapeutic approach that is capable of simultaneously harnessing the antitumour effects of T cells and macrophages, offering enhanced potency against solid tumours.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-024-07443-8

    View details for PubMedID 38750365

    View details for PubMedCentralID 4182950

  • A versatile CRISPR-Cas13d platform for multiplexed transcriptomic regulation and metabolic engineering in primary human T cells. Cell Tieu, V., Sotillo, E., Bjelajac, J. R., Chen, C., Malipatlolla, M., Guerrero, J. A., Xu, P., Quinn, P. J., Fisher, C., Klysz, D., Mackall, C. L., Qi, L. S. 2024


    CRISPR technologies have begun to revolutionize T cell therapies; however, conventional CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tools are limited in their safety, efficacy, and scope. To address these challenges, we developed multiplexed effector guide arrays (MEGA), a platform for programmable and scalable regulation of the T cell transcriptome using the RNA-guided, RNA-targeting activity of CRISPR-Cas13d. MEGA enables quantitative, reversible, and massively multiplexed gene knockdown in primary human T cells without targeting or cutting genomic DNA. Applying MEGA to a model of CAR T cell exhaustion, we robustly suppressed inhibitory receptor upregulation and uncovered paired regulators of T cell function through combinatorial CRISPR screening. We additionally implemented druggable regulation of MEGA to control CAR activation in a receptor-independent manner. Lastly, MEGA enabled multiplexed disruption of immunoregulatory metabolic pathways to enhance CAR T cell fitness and anti-tumor activity in vitro and in vivo. MEGA offers a versatile synthetic toolkit for applications in cancer immunotherapy and beyond.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2024.01.035

    View details for PubMedID 38387457

  • Skin basal cell carcinomas assemble a pro-tumorigenic spatially organized and self-propagating Trem2+ myeloid niche. Nature communications Haensel, D., Daniel, B., Gaddam, S., Pan, C., Fabo, T., Bjelajac, J., Jussila, A. R., Gonzalez, F., Li, N. Y., Chen, Y., Hou, J., Patel, T., Aasi, S., Satpathy, A. T., Oro, A. E. 2023; 14 (1): 2685


    Cancer immunotherapies have revolutionized treatment but have shown limited success as single-agent therapies highlighting the need to understand the origin, assembly, and dynamics of heterogeneous tumor immune niches. Here, we use single-cell and imaging-based spatial analysis to elucidate three microenvironmental neighborhoods surrounding the heterogeneous basal cell carcinoma tumor epithelia. Within the highly proliferative neighborhood, we find that TREM2+ skin cancer-associated macrophages (SCAMs) support the proliferation of a distinct tumor epithelial population through an immunosuppression-independent manner via oncostatin-M/JAK-STAT3 signaling. SCAMs represent a unique tumor-specific TREM2+ population defined by VCAM1 surface expression that is not found in normal homeostatic skin or during wound healing. Furthermore, SCAMs actively proliferate and self-propagate through multiple serial tumor passages, indicating long-term potential. The tumor rapidly drives SCAM differentiation, with intratumoral injections sufficient to instruct naive bone marrow-derived monocytes to polarize within days. This work provides mechanistic insights into direct tumor-immune niche dynamics independent of immunosuppression, providing the basis for potential combination tumor therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-023-37993-w

    View details for PubMedID 37164949

  • Enhanced T cell effector activity by targeting the Mediator kinase module. Science (New York, N.Y.) Freitas, K. A., Belk, J. A., Sotillo, E., Quinn, P. J., Ramello, M. C., Malipatlolla, M., Daniel, B., Sandor, K., Klysz, D., Bjelajac, J., Xu, P., Burdsall, K. A., Tieu, V., Duong, V. T., Donovan, M. G., Weber, E. W., Chang, H. Y., Majzner, R. G., Espinosa, J. M., Satpathy, A. T., Mackall, C. L. 2022; 378 (6620): eabn5647


    T cells are the major arm of the immune system responsible for controlling and regressing cancers. To identify genes limiting T cell function, we conducted genome-wide CRISPR knockout screens in human chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. Top hits were MED12 and CCNC, components of the Mediator kinase module. Targeted MED12 deletion enhanced antitumor activity and sustained the effector phenotype in CAR- and T cell receptor-engineered T cells, and inhibition of CDK8/19 kinase activity increased expansion of nonengineered T cells. MED12-deficient T cells manifested increased core Meditator chromatin occupancy at transcriptionally active enhancers-most notably for STAT and AP-1 transcription factors-and increased IL2RA expression and interleukin-2 sensitivity. These results implicate Mediator in T cell effector programming and identify the kinase module as a target for enhancing potency of antitumor T cell responses.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.abn5647

    View details for PubMedID 36356142