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  • 1
    Abstract: Significant progress has been made in recent years toward realizing the potential of natural killer (NK) cells for cancer immunotherapy. NK cells can respond rapidly to transformed and stressed cells and have the intrinsic potential to extravasate and reach their targets in almost all body tissues. In addition to donor-derived primary NK cells, also the established NK cell line NK-92 is being developed for adoptive immunotherapy, and general safety of infusion of irradiated NK-92 cells has been established in phase I clinical trials with clinical responses observed in some of the cancer patients treated. To enhance their therapeutic utility, NK-92 cells have been modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) composed of a tumor-specific single chain fragment variable antibody fragment fused via hinge and transmembrane regions to intracellular signaling moieties such as CD3zeta or composite signaling domains containing a costimulatory protein together with CD3zeta. CAR-mediated activation of NK cells then bypasses inhibitory signals and overcomes NK resistance of tumor cells. In contrast to primary NK cells, CAR-engineered NK-92 cell lines suitable for clinical development can be established from molecularly and functionally well-characterized single cell clones following good manufacturing practice-compliant procedures. In preclinical in vitro and in vivo models, potent antitumor activity of NK-92 variants targeted to differentiation antigens expressed by hematologic malignancies, and overexpressed or mutated self-antigens associated with solid tumors has been found, encouraging further development of CAR-engineered NK-92 cells. Importantly, in syngeneic mouse tumor models, induction of endogenous antitumor immunity after treatment with CAR-expressing NK-92 cells has been demonstrated, resulting in cures and long-lasting immunological memory protecting against tumor rechallenge at distant sites. Here, we summarize the current status and future prospects of CAR-engineered NK-92 cells as off-the-shelf cellular therapeutics, with special emphasis on ErbB2 (HER2)-specific NK-92 cells that are approaching clinical application.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 28572802
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  • 2
    Keywords: RECEPTOR ; ENDOTHELIAL-CELLS ; EXPRESSION ; PROTEIN ; LYMPHOCYTES ; B-CELLS ; STOMATITIS-VIRUS GLYCOPROTEIN ; EFFICIENT GENE-TRANSFER ; LYSE TARGET-CELLS ; IMMUNORECEPTOR
    Abstract: Playing a central role in both innate and adaptive immunity, CD4(+) T cells are a key target for genetic modifications in basic research and immunotherapy. In this article, we describe novel lentiviral vectors (CD4-LV) that have been rendered selective for human or simian CD4(+) cells by surface engineering. When applied to PBMCs, CD4-LV transduced CD4(+) but not CD4(-) cells. Notably, also unstimulated T cells were stably genetically modified. Upon systemic or intrasplenic administration into mice reconstituted with human PBMCs or hematopoietic stem cells, reporter gene expression was predominantly detected in lymphoid organs. Evaluation of GFP expression in organ-derived cells and blood by flow cytometry demonstrated exclusive gene transfer into CD4(+) human lymphocytes. In bone marrow and spleen, memory T cells were preferentially hit. Toward therapeutic applications, we also show that CD4-LV can be used for HIV gene therapy, as well as for tumor therapy, by delivering chimeric Ag receptors. The potential for in vivo delivery of the FOXP3 gene was also demonstrated, making CD4-LV a powerful tool for inducible regulatory T cell generation. In summary, our work demonstrates the exclusive gene transfer into a T cell subset upon systemic vector administration opening an avenue toward novel strategies in immunotherapy.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 26232436
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  • 3
    Abstract: BACKGROUND: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and malignant intracranial tumor in adults and currently incurable. To specifically target natural killer (NK) cell activity to GBM, we employed NK-92/5.28.z cells that are continuously expanding human NK cells expressing an ErbB2-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). METHODS: ErbB2 expression in 56 primary tumors, four primary cell cultures, and seven established cell lines was assessed by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry. Cell killing activity of NK-92/5.28.z cells was analyzed in in vitro cytotoxicity assays. In vivo antitumor activity was evaluated in NOD-SCID IL2Rgamma(null) (NSG) mice carrying orthotopic human GBM xenografts (6 to 11 mice per group) and C57BL/6 mice carrying subcutaneous and orthotopic ErbB2-expressing murine GBM tumors (5 to 8 mice per group). Statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS: We found elevated ErbB2 protein expression in 41% of primary GBM samples and in the majority of GBM cell lines investigated. In in vitro assays, NK-92/5.28.z in contrast to untargeted NK-92 cells lysed all ErbB2-positive established and primary GBM cells analyzed. Potent in vivo antitumor activity of NK-92/5.28.z was observed in orthotopic GBM xenograft models in NSG mice, leading to a marked extension of symptom-free survival upon repeated stereotactic injection of CAR NK cells into the tumor area (median survival of 200.5 days upon treatment with NK-92/5.28.z vs 73 days upon treatment with parental NK-92 cells, P 〈 .001). In immunocompetent mice, local therapy with NK-92/5.28.z cells resulted in cures of transplanted syngeneic GBM in four of five mice carrying subcutaneous tumors and five of eight mice carrying intracranial tumors, induction of endogenous antitumor immunity, and long-term protection against tumor rechallenge at distant sites. CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate the potential of ErbB2-specific NK-92/5.28.z cells for adoptive immunotherapy of glioblastoma, justifying evaluation of this approach for the treatment of ErbB2-positive GBM in clinical studies.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 26640245
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  • 4
    Abstract: Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its mutant form EGFRvIII are overexpressed in a large proportion of glioblastomas (GBM). Immunotherapy with an EGFRvIII-specific vaccine has shown efficacy against GBM in clinical studies. However, immune escape by antigen-loss variants and lack of control of EGFR wild-type positive clones limit the usefulness of this approach. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered natural killer (NK) cells may represent an alternative immunotherapeutic strategy. For targeting to GBM, we generated variants of the clinically applicable human NK cell line NK-92 that express CARs carrying a composite CD28-CD3zeta domain for signaling, and scFv antibody fragments for cell binding either recognizing EGFR, EGFRvIII, or an epitope common to both antigens. In vitro analysis revealed high and specific cytotoxicity of EGFR-targeted NK-92 against established and primary human GBM cells, which was dependent on EGFR expression and CAR signaling. EGFRvIII-targeted NK-92 only lysed EGFRvIII-positive GBM cells, while dual-specific NK cells expressing a cetuximab-based CAR were active against both types of tumor cells. In immunodeficient mice carrying intracranial GBM xenografts either expressing EGFR, EGFRvIII or both receptors, local treatment with dual-specific NK cells was superior to treatment with the corresponding monospecific CAR NK cells. This resulted in a marked extension of survival without inducing rapid immune escape as observed upon therapy with monospecific effectors. Our results demonstrate that dual targeting of CAR NK cells reduces the risk of immune escape and suggest that EGFR/EGFRvIII-targeted dual-specific CAR NK cells may have potential for adoptive immunotherapy of glioblastoma.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 27141401
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  • 5
    Abstract: Pre-emptive cancer immunotherapy by donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) using cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells may be beneficial to prevent relapse with a reduced risk of causing graft-versus-host-disease. CIK cells are a heterogeneous effector cell population including T cells (CD3(+) CD56(-) ), natural killer (NK) cells (CD3(-) CD56(+) ) and natural killer T (T-NK) cells (CD3(+) CD56(+) ) that exhibit non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted cytotoxicity and are generated by ex vivo expansion of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in the presence of interferon (IFN)-gamma, anti-CD3 antibody, interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interleukin-15 (IL-15). To facilitate selective target-cell recognition and enhance specific cytotoxicity against B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), we transduced CIK cells with a lentiviral vector encoding a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that carries a composite CD28-CD3zeta domain for signaling and a CD19-specific scFv antibody fragment for cell binding (CAR 63.28.z). In vitro analysis revealed high and specific cell killing activity of CD19-targeted CIK/63.28.z cells against otherwise CIK-resistant cancer cell lines and primary B-ALL blasts, which was dependent on CD19 expression and CAR signaling. In a xenograft model in immunodeficient mice, treatment with CIK/63.28.z cells in contrast to therapy with unmodified CIK cells resulted in complete and durable molecular remissions of established primary pre-B-ALL. Our results demonstrate potent antileukemic activity of CAR-engineered CIK cells in vitro and in vivo, and suggest this strategy as a promising approach for adoptive immunotherapy of refractory pre-B-ALL.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 27253354
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  • 6
    Keywords: THERAPY ; PROTEIN ; T-CELLS ; leukemia ; NATURAL-KILLER-CELLS ; CANCER-IMMUNOTHERAPY ; PROTOONCOGENE ; CYTOTOXIC ACTIVITY ; LINE NK-92 ; ERBB-2 RECEPTOR
    Abstract: Natural killer (NK) cells are an important effector cell type for adoptive cancer immunotherapy. Similar to T cells, NK cells can be modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to enhance antitumor activity, but experience with CAR-engineered NK cells and their clinical development is still limited. Here, we redirected continuously expanding and clinically usable established human NK-92 cells to the tumor-associated ErbB2 (HER2) antigen. Following GMP-compliant procedures, we generated a stable clonal cell line expressing a humanized CAR based on ErbB2-specific antibody FRP5 harboring CD28 and CD3? signaling domains (CAR 5.28.z). These NK-92/5.28.z cells efficiently lysed ErbB2-expressing tumor cells in vitro and exhibited serial target cell killing. Specific recognition of tumor cells and antitumor activity were retained in vivo, resulting in selective enrichment of NK-92/5.28.z cells in orthotopic breast carcinoma xenografts, and reduction of pulmonary metastasis in a renal cell carcinoma model, respectively. ?-irradiation as a potential safety measure for clinical application prevented NK cell replication, while antitumor activity was preserved. Our data demonstrate that it is feasible to engineer CAR-expressing NK cells as a clonal, molecularly and functionally well-defined and continuously expandable cell therapeutic agent, and suggest NK-92/5.28.z cells as a promising candidate for use in adoptive cancer immunotherapy.Molecular Therapy (2014); doi:10.1038/mt.2014.219.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 25373520
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  • 7
    Abstract: BACKGROUND AIMS: Natural killer (NK) cells can rapidly respond to transformed and stressed cells and represent an important effector cell type for adoptive immunotherapy. In addition to donor-derived primary NK cells, continuously expanding cytotoxic cell lines such as NK-92 are being developed for clinical applications. METHODS: To enhance their therapeutic utility for the treatment of B-cell malignancies, we engineered NK-92 cells by lentiviral gene transfer to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that target CD19 and contain human CD3zeta (CAR 63.z), composite CD28-CD3zeta or CD137-CD3zeta signaling domains (CARs 63.28.z and 63.137.z). RESULTS: Exposure of CD19-positive targets to CAR NK-92 cells resulted in formation of conjugates between NK and cancer cells, NK-cell degranulation and selective cytotoxicity toward established B-cell leukemia and lymphoma cells. Likewise, the CAR NK cells displayed targeted cell killing of primary pre-B-ALL blasts that were resistant to parental NK-92. Although all three CAR NK-92 cell variants were functionally active, NK-92/63.137.z cells were less effective than NK-92/63.z and NK-92/63.28.z in cell killing and cytokine production, pointing to differential effects of the costimulatory CD28 and CD137 domains. In a Raji B-cell lymphoma model in NOD-SCID IL2R gammanull mice, treatment with NK-92/63.z cells, but not parental NK-92 cells, inhibited disease progression, indicating that selective cytotoxicity was retained in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate that it is feasible to generate CAR-engineered NK-92 cells with potent and selective antitumor activity. These cells may become clinically useful as a continuously expandable off-the-shelf cell therapeutic agent.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 27887866
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  • 8
    Abstract: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue malignancy in children. Despite intensive research in recent decades the prognosis for patients with metastatic or relapsed diseases has hardly improved. New therapeutic concepts in anti-tumor therapy aim to modulate the patient's immune system to increase its aggressiveness or targeted effects toward tumor cells. Besides surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, immune activation by direct application of cytokines, antibodies or adoptive cell therapy are promising approaches. In the last years, adoptive transfer of natural killer (NK) cells came into the focus of translational medicine, because of their high cytotoxic potential against transformed malignant cells. A main challenge of NK cell therapy is that it requires a high amount of functional NK cells. Therefore, ex vivo NK cell expansion protocols are currently being developed. Many culturing strategies are based on the addition of feeder or accessory cells, which need to be removed prior to the clinical application of the final NK cell product. In this study, we addressed feeder cell-free expansion methods using common gamma-chain cytokines, especially IL-15 and IL-21. Our results demonstrated high potential of IL-15 for NK cell expansion, while IL-21 triggered NK cell maturation and functionality. Hence, we established a two-phase expansion protocol with IL-15 to induce an early NK cell expansion, followed by short exposure to IL-21 that boosted the cytotoxic activity of NK cells against RMS cells. Further functional analyses revealed enhanced degranulation and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interferon-gamma and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In a proof of concept in vivo study, we also observed a therapeutic effect of adoptively transferred IL-15 expanded and IL-21 boosted NK cells in combination with image guided high precision radiation therapy using a luciferase-transduced RMS xenograft model. In summary, this two-phased feeder cell-free ex vivo culturing protocol combined efficient expansion and high cytolytic functionality of NK cells for treatment of radiation-resistant RMS.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 28659917
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  • 9
    Abstract: Adoptive transfer of T cells genetically modified by TCRs or CARs represents a highly attractive novel therapeutic strategy to treat malignant diseases. Various approaches for the development of such gene therapy medicinal products (GTMPs) have been initiated by scientists in recent years. To date, however, the number of clinical trials commenced in Germany and Europe is still low. Several hurdles may contribute to the delay in clinical translation of these therapeutic innovations including the significant complexity of manufacture and non-clinical testing of these novel medicinal products, the limited knowledge about the intricate regulatory requirements of the academic developers as well as limitations of funds for clinical testing. A suitable good manufacturing practice (GMP) environment is a key prerequisite and platform for the development, validation, and manufacture of such cell-based therapies, but may also represent a bottleneck for clinical translation. The German Cancer Consortium (DKTK) and the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI) have initiated joint efforts of researchers and regulators to facilitate and advance early phase, academia-driven clinical trials. Starting with a workshop held in 2016, stakeholders from academia and regulatory authorities in Germany have entered into continuing discussions on a diversity of scientific, manufacturing, and regulatory aspects, as well as the benefits and risks of clinical application of CAR/TCR-based cell therapies. This review summarizes the current state of discussions of this cooperative approach providing a basis for further policy-making and suitable modification of processes.
    Type of Publication: Journal article published
    PubMed ID: 29380009
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