Crystal Mackall, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Enhanced safety and efficacy of protease-regulated CAR-T cell receptors.
Regulatable CAR platforms could circumvent toxicities associated with CAR-T therapy, but existing systems have shortcomings including leakiness and attenuated activity. Here, we present SNIP CARs, a protease-based platform for regulating CAR activity using an FDA-approved small molecule. Design iterations yielded CAR-T cells that manifest full functional capacity with drug and no leaky activity in the absence of drug. In numerous models, SNIP CAR-T cells were more potent than constitutive CAR-T cells and showed diminished T cell exhaustion and greater stemness. In a ROR1-based CAR lethality model, drug cessation following toxicity onset reversed toxicity, thereby credentialing the platform as a safety switch. In the same model, reduced drug dosing opened a therapeutic window that resulted in tumor eradication in the absence of toxicity. SNIP CARs enable remote tuning of CAR activity, which provides solutions to safety and efficacy barriers that are currently limiting progress in using CAR-T cells to treat solid tumors.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2022.03.041
View details for PubMedID 35483375
Delivery of CAR-T cells in a transient injectable stimulatory hydrogel niche improves treatment of solid tumors.
2022; 8 (14): eabn8264
Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) has proven to be highly effective in treating blood cancers, but traditional approaches to ACT are poorly effective in treating solid tumors observed clinically. Novel delivery methods for therapeutic cells have shown promise for treatment of solid tumors when compared with standard intravenous administration methods, but the few reported approaches leverage biomaterials that are complex to manufacture and have primarily demonstrated applicability following tumor resection or in immune-privileged tissues. Here, we engineer simple-to-implement injectable hydrogels for the controlled co-delivery of CAR-T cells and stimulatory cytokines that improve treatment of solid tumors. The unique architecture of this material simultaneously inhibits passive diffusion of entrapped cytokines and permits active motility of entrapped cells to enable long-term retention, viability, and activation of CAR-T cells. The generation of a transient inflammatory niche following administration affords sustained exposure of CAR-T cells, induces a tumor-reactive CAR-T phenotype, and improves efficacy of treatment.
View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.abn8264
View details for PubMedID 35394838
An engineered ligand trap inhibits leukemia inhibitory factor as pancreatic cancer treatment strategy.
2021; 4 (1): 452
Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), a cytokine secreted by stromal myofibroblasts and tumor cells, has recently been highlighted to promote tumor progression in pancreatic and other cancers through KRAS-driven cell signaling. We engineered a high affinity soluble humanLIF receptor (LIFR) decoy that sequesters humanLIF and inhibits its signaling as a therapeutic strategy. This engineered 'ligand trap', fused to an antibody Fc-domain, has ~50-fold increased affinity (~20 pM) and improved LIF inhibition compared to wild-type LIFR-Fc, potently blocks LIF-mediated effects in pancreatic cancer cells, and slows the growth of pancreatic cancer xenograft tumors. These results, and the lack of apparent toxicity observed in animal models, further highlights ligand traps as a promising therapeutic strategy for cancer treatment.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s42003-021-01928-2
View details for PubMedID 33846527
Transient rest restores functionality in exhausted CAR-T cells through epigenetic remodeling.
Science (New York, N.Y.)
2021; 372 (6537)
T cell exhaustion limits immune responses against cancer and is a major cause of resistance to chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapeutics. Using murine xenograft models and an in vitro model wherein tonic CAR signaling induces hallmark features of exhaustion, we tested the effect of transient cessation of receptor signaling, or rest, on the development and maintenance of exhaustion. Induction of rest through enforced down-regulation of the CAR protein using a drug-regulatable system or treatment with the multikinase inhibitor dasatinib resulted in the acquisition of a memory-like phenotype, global transcriptional and epigenetic reprogramming, and restored antitumor functionality in exhausted CAR-T cells. This work demonstrates that rest can enhance CAR-T cell efficacy by preventing or reversing exhaustion, and it challenges the notion that exhaustion is an epigenetically fixed state.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aba1786
View details for PubMedID 33795428
Global analysis of shared T cell specificities in human non-small cell lung cancer enables HLA inference and antigen discovery.
2021; 54 (3): 586–602.e8
To identify disease-relevant T cell receptors (TCRs) with shared antigen specificity, we analyzed 778,938 TCRβ chain sequences from 178 non-small cell lung cancer patients using the GLIPH2 (grouping of lymphocyte interactions with paratope hotspots 2) algorithm. We identified over 66,000 shared specificity groups, of which 435 were clonally expanded and enriched in tumors compared to adjacent lung. The antigenic epitopes of one such tumor-enriched specificity group were identified using a yeast peptide-HLA A∗02:01 display library. These included a peptide from the epithelial protein TMEM161A, which is overexpressed in tumors and cross-reactive epitopes from Epstein-Barr virus and E. coli. Our findings suggest that this cross-reactivity may underlie the presence of virus-specific T cells in tumor infiltrates and that pathogen cross-reactivity may be a feature of multiple cancers. The approach and analytical pipelines generated in this work, as well as the specificity groups defined here, present a resource for understanding the T cell response in cancer.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.immuni.2021.02.014
View details for PubMedID 33691136
PET reporter gene imaging and ganciclovir-mediated ablation of chimeric antigen receptor T-cells in solid tumors.
Imaging strategies to monitor chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell biodistribution and proliferation harbor the potential to facilitate clinical translation for the treatment of both liquid and solid tumors. Additionally, the potential adverse effects of CAR T-cells highlight the need for mechanisms to modulate CAR T-cell activity. The herpes simplex virus type 1 thymidine kinase (HSV1-tk) gene has previously been translated as a positron emission tomography (PET) reporter gene for imaging of T-cell trafficking in brain tumor patients. The HSV1-TK enzyme can act as a suicide gene of transduced cells through treatment with the prodrug ganciclovir (GCV). Here we report the molecular engineering, imaging, and GCV-mediated destruction of B7H3 CAR T-cells incorporating a mutated version of the HSV1-tk gene (sr39tk) with improved enzymatic activity for GCV. The sr39tk gene did not affect B7H3 CAR T-cell functionality and in vitro and in vivo studies in osteosarcoma models showed no significant effect on B7H3 CAR T-cell antitumor activity. PET/CT imaging with 9-(4-[18F]-fluoro-3-[hydroxymethyl]butyl)guanine [18F]FHBG of B7H3-sr39tk CAR T-cells in an orthotopic model of osteosarcoma revealed tumor homing and systemic immune expansion. Bioluminescence and PET imaging of B7H3-sr39tk CAR T-cells confirmed complete tumor ablation with intraperitoneal GCV administration. This imaging and suicide ablation system can provide insight into CAR T-cell migration and proliferation during clinical trials while serving as a suicide switch to limit potential toxicities.
View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-3579
View details for PubMedID 32958548
An engineered antibody binds a distinct epitope and is a potent inhibitor of murine and human VISTA.
2020; 10 (1): 15171
V-domain immunoglobulin (Ig) suppressor of T cell activation (VISTA) is an immune checkpoint that maintains peripheral T cell quiescence and inhibits anti-tumor immune responses. VISTA functions by dampening the interaction between myeloid cells and T cells, orthogonal to PD-1 and other checkpoints of the tumor-T cell signaling axis. Here, we report the use of yeast surface display to engineer an anti-VISTA antibody that binds with high affinity to mouse, human, and cynomolgus monkey VISTA. Our anti-VISTA antibody (SG7) inhibits VISTA function and blocks purported interactions with both PSGL-1 and VSIG3proteins. SG7 binds a unique epitope on the surface of VISTA, which partially overlaps with other clinically relevant antibodies. As a monotherapy, and to a greater extent as a combination with anti-PD1, SG7 slows tumor growth in multiple syngeneic mouse models. SG7 is a promising clinical candidate that can be tested in fully immunocompetent mouse models and its binding epitope can be used for future campaigns to develop species cross-reactive inhibitors of VISTA.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-71519-4
View details for PubMedID 32938950
Rapid Detection of beta-Lactamase-Producing Bacteria Using the Integrated Comprehensive Droplet Digital Detection (IC 3D) System.
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)
2020; 20 (17)
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have emerged as an imminent global threat. The lack of rapid and sensitive diagnostic techniques leaves health care providers with inadequate resources for guiding therapy and risks the lives of patients. The traditional plate culturing methods for identifying antibiotic-resistant bacteria is laborious and time-consuming. Bulk PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and qPCR are limited by poor detection sensitivity, which is critical for the early-stage detection of bloodstream infections. In this study, we introduce a technique for detecting beta-lactamase-producing bacteria at single-cell sensitivity based on a commercial beta-lactamase sensor (Fluorocillin), droplet microfluidics, and a custom 3D particle counter. Bacteria-containing samples were encapsulated within picoliter-sized droplets at the single-cell level and cultured within water-in-oil droplets containing antibiotics and the Fluorocillin sensor. Then, fluorescent droplets were digitally quantified with the 3D particle counter, which is capable of analyzing milliliter-scale volumes of collected droplets within 10 min. The fluorescence signal from single-colony droplets was detectable in less than 5 h, and the 3D scanning was performed in less than 10 min, which was significantly faster than conventional culture-based methods. In this approach, the limit of detection achieved was about 10 bacterial cells per mL of sample, and the turnaround time from sample to result was less than 6 h. This study demonstrates a promising strategy for the detection of beta-lactamase-producing bacteria using the recently developed IC 3D system.
View details for DOI 10.3390/s20174667
View details for PubMedID 32824984
Novel NanoLuc substrates enable bright two-population bioluminescence imaging in animals.
Sensitive detection of two biological events in vivo has long been a goal in bioluminescence imaging. Antares, a fusion of the luciferase NanoLuc to the orange fluorescent protein CyOFP, has emerged as a bright bioluminescent reporter with orthogonal substrate specificity to firefly luciferase (FLuc) and its derivatives such as AkaLuc. However, the brightness of Antares in mice is limited by the poor solubility and bioavailability of the NanoLuc substrate furimazine. Here, we report a new substrate, hydrofurimazine, whose enhanced aqueous solubility allows delivery of higher doses to mice. In the liver, Antares with hydrofurimazine exhibited similar brightness to AkaLuc with its substrate AkaLumine. Further chemical exploration generated a second substrate, fluorofurimazine, with even higher brightness in vivo. We used Antares with fluorofurimazine to track tumor size and AkaLuc with AkaLumine to visualize CAR-T cells within the same mice, demonstrating the ability to perform two-population imaging with these two luciferase systems.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41592-020-0889-6
View details for PubMedID 32661427
Tuning the Antigen Density Requirement for CAR T Cell Activity.
Insufficient reactivity against cells with low antigen density has emerged as an important cause of CAR resistance. Little is known about factors that modulate the threshold for antigen recognition. We demonstrate that CD19 CAR activity is dependent upon antigen density and the CAR construct in axicabtagene-ciloleucel (CD19-CD28z) outperforms that in tisagenlecleucel (CD19-4-1BBz) against antigen low tumors. Enhancing signal strength by including additional ITAMs in the CAR enables recognition of low antigen density cells, while ITAM deletions blunt signal and increase the antigen density threshold. Further, replacement of the CD8 hinge-transmembrane (H/T) region of a 4-1BBz CAR with a CD28-H/T lowers the threshold for CAR reactivity despite identical signaling molecules. CARs incorporating a CD28-H/T demonstrate a more stable and efficient immunological synapse. Precise design of CARs can tune the threshold for antigen recognition and endow 4-1BBz-CARs with enhanced capacity to recognize antigen low targets while retaining a superior capacity for persistence.
View details for DOI 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-19-0945
View details for PubMedID 32193224
Locoregionally administered B7-H3-targeted CAR T cells for treatment of atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors.
Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (ATRTs) typically arise in the central nervous system (CNS) of children under 3 years of age. Despite intensive multimodal therapy (surgery, chemotherapy and, if age permits, radiotherapy), median survival is 17 months1,2. We show that ATRTs robustly express B7-H3/CD276 that does not result from the inactivating mutations in SMARCB1 (refs. 3,4), which drive oncogenesis in ATRT, but requires residual SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) activity mediated by BRG1/SMARCA4. Consistent with the embryonic origin of ATRT5,6, B7-H3 is highly expressed on the prenatal, but not postnatal, brain. B7-H3.BB.z-chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells administered intracerebroventricularly or intratumorally mediate potent antitumor effects against cerebral ATRT xenografts in mice, with faster kinetics, greater potency and reduced systemic levels of inflammatory cytokines compared to CAR T cells administered intravenously. CAR T cells administered ICV also traffic from the CNS into the periphery; following clearance of ATRT xenografts, B7-H3.BB.z-CAR T cells administered intracerebroventricularly or intravenously mediate antigen-specific protection from tumor rechallenge, both in the brain and periphery. These results identify B7-H3 as a compelling therapeutic target for this largely incurable pediatric tumor and demonstrate important advantages of locoregional compared to systemic delivery of CAR T cells for the treatment of CNS malignancies.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41591-020-0821-8
View details for PubMedID 32341579
Live imaging of Aiptasia larvae, a model system for coral and anemone bleaching, using a simple microfluidic device.
2019; 9 (1): 9275
Coral reefs, and their associated diverse ecosystems, are of enormous ecological importance. In recent years, coral health has been severely impacted by environmental stressors brought on by human activity and climate change, threatening the extinction of several major reef ecosystems. Reef damage is mediated by a process called 'coral bleaching' where corals, sea anemones, and other cnidarians lose their photosynthetic algal symbionts (family Symbiodiniaceae) upon stress induction, resulting in drastically decreased host energy harvest and, ultimately, coral death. The mechanism by which this critical cnidarian-algal symbiosis is lost remains poorly understood. The larvae of the sea anemone, Exaiptasia pallida (commonly referred to as 'Aiptasia') are an attractive model organism to study this process, but they are large (100 mm in length, 75 mm in diameter), deformable, and highly motile, complicating long-term imaging and limiting study of this critical endosymbiotic relationship in live organisms. Here, we report 'Traptasia', a simple microfluidic device with multiple traps designed to isolate and image individual, live larvae of Aiptasia and their algal symbionts over extended time courses. Using a trap design parameterized via fluid flow simulations and polymer bead loading tests, we trapped Aiptasia larvae containing algal symbionts and demonstrated stable imaging for >10 hours. We visualized algae within Aiptasia larvae and observed algal expulsion under an environmental stressor. To our knowledge, this device is the first to enable time-lapsed, high-throughput live imaging of cnidarian larvae and their algal symbionts and, in further implementation, could provide important insights into the cellular mechanisms of cnidarian bleaching under different environmental stressors. The 'Traptasia' device is simple to use, requires minimal external equipment and no specialized training to operate, and can easily be adapted using the trap optimization data presented here to study a variety of large, motile organisms.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-45167-2
View details for PubMedID 31239506
- CAR T Cells Targeting B7-H3, a Pan-Cancer Antigen, Demonstrate Potent Preclinical Activity Against Pediatric Solid Tumors and Brain Tumors CLINICAL CANCER RESEARCH 2019; 25 (8): 2560–74
- Programming CAR-T cells to kill cancer NATURE BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING 2018; 2 (6): 377–91
- Potent antitumor efficacy of anti-GD2 CAR T cells in H3-K27M(+) diffuse midline gliomas NATURE MEDICINE 2018; 24 (5): 572-+
Potent antitumor efficacy of anti-GD2 CAR T cells in H3-K27M+ diffuse midline gliomas.
Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and other diffuse midline gliomas (DMGs) with mutated histone H3 K27M (H3-K27M)1-5 are aggressive and universally fatal pediatric brain cancers 6 . Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-expressing T cells have mediated impressive clinical activity in B cell malignancies7-10, and recent results suggest benefit in central nervous system malignancies11-13. Here, we report that patient-derived H3-K27M-mutant glioma cell cultures exhibit uniform, high expression of the disialoganglioside GD2. Anti-GD2 CAR T cells incorporating a 4-1BBz costimulatory domain 14 demonstrated robust antigen-dependent cytokine generation and killing of DMG cells in vitro. In five independent patient-derived H3-K27M+ DMG orthotopic xenograft models, systemic administration of GD2-targeted CAR T cells cleared engrafted tumors except for a small number of residual GD2lo glioma cells. To date, GD2-targeted CAR T cells have been well tolerated in clinical trials15-17. Although GD2-targeted CAR T cell administration was tolerated in the majority of mice bearing orthotopic xenografts, peritumoral neuroinflammation during the acute phase of antitumor activity resulted in hydrocephalus that was lethal in a fraction of animals. Given the precarious neuroanatomical location of midline gliomas, careful monitoring and aggressive neurointensive care management will be required for human translation. With a cautious multidisciplinary clinical approach, GD2-targeted CAR T cell therapy for H3-K27M+ diffuse gliomas of pons, thalamus and spinal cord could prove transformative for these lethal childhood cancers.
View details for PubMedID 29662203
High-throughput screening technologies for enzyme engineering
CURRENT OPINION IN BIOTECHNOLOGY
2017; 48: 196–202
Emerging technologies are enabling ultra-high-throughput screening of combinatorial enzyme libraries to identify variants with improved properties such as increased activity, altered substrate specificity, and increased stability. Each of these enzyme engineering platforms relies on compartmentalization of reaction components, similar to microtiter plate-based assays which have been commonly used for testing the activity of enzyme variants. The technologies can be broadly divided into three categories according to their spatial segregation strategy: (1) cells as reaction compartments, (2) in vitro compartmentalization via synthetic droplets, and (3) microchambers. Here, we discuss these emerging platforms, which in some cases enable the screening of greater than 10 million enzyme variants, and highlight benefits and limitations of each technology.
View details for PubMedID 28624724
Engineering cell sensing and responses using a GPCR-coupled CRISPR-Cas system.
2017; 8 (1): 2212
G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest and most diverse group of membrane receptors in eukaryotes and detect a wide array of cues in the human body. Here we describe a molecular device that couples CRISPR-dCas9 genome regulation to diverse natural and synthetic extracellular signals via GPCRs. We generate alternative architectures for fusing CRISPR to GPCRs utilizing the previously reported design, Tango, and our design, ChaCha. Mathematical modeling suggests that for the CRISPR ChaCha design, multiple dCas9 molecules can be released across the lifetime of a GPCR. The CRISPR ChaCha is dose-dependent, reversible, and can activate multiple endogenous genes simultaneously in response to extracellular ligands. We adopt the design to diverse GPCRs that sense a broad spectrum of ligands, including synthetic compounds, chemokines, mitogens, fatty acids, and hormones. This toolkit of CRISPR-coupled GPCRs provides a modular platform for rewiring diverse ligand sensing to targeted genome regulation for engineering cellular functions.
View details for PubMedID 29263378