Doctor of Philosophy, Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine (2017)
Andrew Gentles, Postdoctoral Research Mentor
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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
View details for Web of Science ID 000551367400054
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells mediate anti-tumour effects in a small subset of patients with cancer1-3, but dysfunction due to T cell exhaustion is an important barrier to progress4-6. To investigate the biology of exhaustion in human T cells expressing CAR receptors, we used a model system with a tonically signaling CAR, which induces hallmark features of exhaustion6. Exhaustion was associated with a profound defect in the production of IL-2, along with increased chromatin accessibility of AP-1 transcription factor motifs and overexpression of the bZIP and IRF transcription factors that have been implicated in mediating dysfunction in exhausted T cells7-10. Here we show that CAR T cells engineered to overexpress the canonical AP-1 factor c-Jun have enhanced expansion potential, increased functional capacity, diminished terminal differentiation and improved anti-tumour potency in five different mouse tumour models in vivo. We conclude that a functional deficiency in c-Jun mediates dysfunction in exhausted human T cells, and that engineering CAR T cells to overexpress c-Jun renders them resistant to exhaustion, thereby addressing a major barrier to progress for this emerging class of therapeutic agents.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-019-1805-z
View details for PubMedID 31802004