UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program, Preston A. Wells Center for Brain Tumor Therapy, Lillian S. Wells Department of Neurosurgery, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
With the presence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), successful immunotherapeutic drug delivery to CNS malignancies remains a challenge. Immunomodulatory agents, such as cytokines, can reprogram the intratumoral microenvironment; however, systemic cytokine delivery has limited access to the CNS. To bypass the limitations of systemically administered cytokines, we investigated if RNA-modified T cells could deliver macromolecules directly to brain tumors. The abilities of T cells to cross the BBB and mediate direct cytotoxic killing of intracranial tumors make them an attractive tool as biological carriers. Using T cell mRNA electroporation, we demonstrated that activated T cells can be modified to secrete granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) protein while retaining their inherent effector functions in vitro. GM-CSF RNA-modified T cells effectively delivered GM-CSF to intracranial tumors in vivo and significantly extended overall survival in an orthotopic treatment model. Importantly, GM-CSF RNA-modified T cells demonstrated superior anti-tumor efficacy as compared to unmodified T cells alone or in combination with systemic administration of recombinant GM-CSF. Anti-tumor effects were associated with increased IFN-γ secretion locally within the tumor microenvironment and systemic antigen-specific T cell expansion. These findings demonstrate that RNA-modified T cells may serve as a versatile platform for the effective delivery of biological agents to CNS tumors.