Constitutively active MyD88/CD40 costimulation enhances expansion and efficacy of chimeric antigen receptor T cells targeting hematological malignancies.


Bellicum Pharmaceuticals, 2130 W. Holcombe Boulevard Suite 800, Houston, TX, 77030, USA. [Email]


Successful adoptive chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies against hematological malignancies require CAR-T expansion and durable persistence following infusion. Balancing increased CAR-T potency with safety, including severe cytokine-release syndrome (sCRS) and neurotoxicity, warrants inclusion of safety mechanisms to control in vivo CAR-T activity. Here, we describe a novel CAR-T cell platform that utilizes expression of the toll-like receptor (TLR) adaptor molecule, MyD88, and tumor-necrosis factor family member, CD40 (MC), tethered to the CAR molecule through an intentionally inefficient 2A linker system, providing a constitutive signal that drives CAR-T survival, proliferation, and antitumor activity against CD19+ and CD123+ hematological cancers. Robust activity of MC-enhanced CAR-T cells was associated with cachexia in animal models that corresponded with high levels of human cytokine production. However, toxicity could be successfully resolved by using the inducible caspase-9 (iC9) safety switch to reduce serum cytokines, by administration of a neutralizing antibody against TNF-α, or by selecting "low" cytokine-producing CD8+ T cells, without loss of antitumor activity. Interestingly, high basal activity was essential for in vivo CAR-T expansion. This study shows that co-opting novel signaling elements (i.e., MyD88 and CD40) and development of a unique CAR-T architecture can drive T-cell proliferation in vivo to enhance CAR-T therapies.

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