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3448 CD28 CAR T Cells for the Treatment of T Cell Malignancies

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 703. Cellular Immunotherapies: Basic and Translational: Poster II
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, Lymphoid Leukemias, ALL, Biological therapies, Translational Research, Diseases, Therapies, Immunotherapy, immunology, Lymphoid Malignancies, Biological Processes
Sunday, December 10, 2023, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Semjon Willier, MD1*, Julian Färber2*, Theodora Ispyrlidou2*, Dana Stenger3*, Sophia LM Nikolaides2*, Paulina Ferrada Ernst2*, Annika E Peters, PhD2*, Jonas Wilhelm4*, Nadine Stoll2*, Maike Breidenbach, MD1*, Fiona AG Becker-Dettling4*, Franziska Blaeschke4, Theresa Kaeuferle4*, Abdallah AHA Yassin, PhD2*, Christoph Klein4 and Tobias Feuchtinger, MD1

1Department of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, Hemostaseology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany
2Department of Pediatrics, Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany
3Department of Pediatrics, Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Muenchen, Germany
4Department of Pediatrics, Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, LMU University Hospital, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany

Introduction: While synthetic immunotherapy has been introduced into the standard of care treatment of patients with B-lineage malignancies, patients with T-lineage malignancies have not gained benefit from this novel approach, yet. The main reason is the challenging choice of target antigen in T-lineage malignancies such as pediatric T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). As activating mutations of CD28 have already been described in T cell malignancies, we set out to quantify surface expression of CD28 and other costimulatory molecules on primary pediatric T-ALL samples and explore the utility of this functionally relevant molecule as a novel target antigen.

Methods: Bone marrow (BM) samples of pediatric T-ALL patients (n=54) at time of diagnosis and healthy control individuals (n=14) were collected. We quantified surface expression of CD28 and 25 additional co-stimulatory or co-inhibitory molecules by flow cytometry after gating on T cell precursors (living singlets, CD45dim/SSC-Alow and CD7+). Subsequently, we generated a set of 20 CD28 directed second-generation chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) based on five different monoclonal antibodies with variation in hinge domain and light chain / heavy chain chronology. We analyzed specific CAR activity against CD28 expressing T-ALL cell lines after retroviral transduction into primary human T cells. Additional CD28 knockout (KO) by CRISPR/Cas9 could prevent T cell fratricide. CAR constructs were subjected to in vivo testing in a T-ALL NSG mouse model with transplantation of 7.5e4 CCRF-CEM cells transduced with firefly luciferase on day 0 and transfer of 2.5e6 CD28 KO T cells on day 3 harboring either of both CD28 CAR molecules. We used CD7 CAR T cells as positive control, CD19 CAR T cells and CD28 KO T cells without CAR as negative controls.

Results: We observed significant upregulation of CD28 on T-ALL leukemia when compared to healthy BM donors (Figure 1A, mean 68.8% vs. 3.7%, p=0.0002). We confirmed upregulation of CD28 in published T-ALL RNA-expression data sets. Interestingly, other co-stimulatory molecules such as CD127 were upregulated, too (mean 50.0% vs. 14.6%, p=0.0001), while co-inhibitory molecules such as CD160, TIGIT and TIM-3 were strongly downregulated (>10fold and p<0.0001 each). We hypothesized that this could imply a functional relevance of CD28 in T-ALL. Therefore, we performed co-culture assays of monocyte derived dendritic cells (CDs) expressing CD28 ligands CD80 and CD86 with different T-lineage leukemia cell lines. The presence of DCs significantly increased proliferation of CD28+ T-ALL cell lines under stress conditions. In order to test the feasibility of CD28 CAR T cells, we generated CD28 KO primary T cells without CAR. When tested in co-culture assays with leukemia cells and T cell engagers, CD28 KO T cells showed unchanged cytotoxic capacity and target-dependent activation illustrating that CD28 KO T cells retain short-term effector functions. Based on cytotoxic capacity and CAR T cell expansion, we identified two lead CD28 CAR candidates out of a pool of 20 CD28 CARs. After CD28 KO, CD28 CAR-T cells showed in vitro expansion comparable to CD19 CAR T cells. Next, we asked how CD28 CAR T cells compare to CD7 CAR T cells, which are currently evaluated clinical trials for T-ALL therapy. Therefore, we generated CD7 KO T cells that were subsequently transduced with a functional CD7 CAR. In vitro, both CD28 CAR T cells and CD7 CAR T cells showed killing of CD28+CD7+ CCRF-CEM cells of >90% at an effector:target (E:T) ratio of 0.2:1, with CD7 being outperformed by one of the CD28 CARs while outperforming the other CD28 CAR at an E:T ratio of 0.04:1 (Figure 1B). Finally, we went on to validate the functionality of CD28 CAR T cells in vivo. We observed significantly prolonged survival of mice treated with CD28 CAR T cells and CD7 CAR T cells when compared to CD19 CAR T cells or control T cells. No difference in survival between CD7 and CD28 CAR T cell treated mice could be observed in two independent experiments.

CONCLUSION: We identify CD28 as novel target antigen for pediatric T-ALL and provide evidence that CD28 is an immunotarget with functional relevance for T-ALL. We demonstrate the feasibility of CD28 CAR T cell generation and that these novel CAR T cells perform equally well as CD7 CAR T cells both in vitro and in vivo. Novel and functionally relevant CAR targets will facilitate clinical development of immunotherapy for T-lineage malignancies.

Disclosures: Feuchtinger: Servier: Research Funding; Miltenyi Biotec: Research Funding.

*signifies non-member of ASH