Publications by authors named "Meng-Fen Wu"

64 Publications

Anti-CD30 CAR-T Cell Therapy in Relapsed and Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma.

J Clin Oncol 2020 11 23;38(32):3794-3804. Epub 2020 Jul 23.

Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.

Purpose: Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy of B-cell malignancies has proved to be effective. We show how the same approach of CAR T cells specific for CD30 (CD30.CAR-Ts) can be used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma (HL).

Methods: We conducted 2 parallel phase I/II studies (ClinicalTrials.gov identifiers: NCT02690545 and NCT02917083) at 2 independent centers involving patients with relapsed or refractory HL and administered CD30.CAR-Ts after lymphodepletion with either bendamustine alone, bendamustine and fludarabine, or cyclophosphamide and fludarabine. The primary end point was safety.

Results: Forty-one patients received CD30.CAR-Ts. Treated patients had a median of 7 prior lines of therapy (range, 2-23), including brentuximab vedotin, checkpoint inhibitors, and autologous or allogeneic stem cell transplantation. The most common toxicities were grade 3 or higher hematologic adverse events. Cytokine release syndrome was observed in 10 patients, all of which were grade 1. No neurologic toxicity was observed. The overall response rate in the 32 patients with active disease who received fludarabine-based lymphodepletion was 72%, including 19 patients (59%) with complete response. With a median follow-up of 533 days, the 1-year progression-free survival and overall survival for all evaluable patients were 36% (95% CI, 21% to 51%) and 94% (95% CI, 79% to 99%), respectively. CAR-T cell expansion in vivo was cell dose dependent.

Conclusion: Heavily pretreated patients with relapsed or refractory HL who received fludarabine-based lymphodepletion followed by CD30.CAR-Ts had a high rate of durable responses with an excellent safety profile, highlighting the feasibility of extending CAR-T cell therapies beyond canonical B-cell malignancies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.20.01342DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7655020PMC
November 2020

Glypican-3-Specific CAR T Cells Coexpressing IL15 and IL21 Have Superior Expansion and Antitumor Activity against Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

Cancer Immunol Res 2020 03 17;8(3):309-320. Epub 2020 Jan 17.

Texas Children's Cancer Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in the world, and curative systemic therapies are lacking. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-expressing T cells induce robust antitumor responses in patients with hematologic malignancies but have limited efficacy in patients with solid tumors, including HCC. IL15 and IL21 promote T-cell expansion, survival, and function and can improve the antitumor properties of T cells. We explored whether transgenic expression of IL15 and/or IL21 enhanced glypican-3-CAR (GPC3-CAR) T cells' antitumor properties against HCC. We previously optimized the costimulation in GPC3-CARs and selected a second-generation GPC3-CAR incorporating a 4-1BB costimulatory endodomain (GBBz) for development. Here, we generated constructs encoding IL15, IL21, or both with GBBz (15.GBBz, 21.GBBz, and 21.15.GBBz, respectively) and examined the ability of transduced T cells to kill, produce effector cytokines, and expand in an antigen-dependent manner. We performed gene-expression and phenotypic analyses of GPC3-CAR T cells and CRISPR-Cas9 knockout of the gene. Finally, we measured GPC3-CAR T-cell antitumor activity in murine xenograft models of GPC3 tumors. The increased proliferation of 21.15.GBBz T cells was at least in part dependent on the upregulation and maintenance of TCF-1 (encoded by ) and associated with a higher percentage of stem cell memory and central memory populations after manufacturing. T cells expressing 21.15.GBBz had superior and expansion and persistence, and the most robust antitumor activity These results provided preclinical evidence to support the clinical evaluation of 21.15.GPC3-CAR T cells in patients with HCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-19-0293DOI Listing
March 2020

The alternative complement pathway activation product Ba as a marker for transplant-associated thrombotic microangiopathy.

Pediatr Blood Cancer 2020 03 27;67(3):e28070. Epub 2019 Nov 27.

Department of Pediatrics, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas.

Background: Transplant-associated thrombotic microangiopathy (TA-TMA) occurs after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and is characterized by microvascular thrombosis and end-organ injury particularly of the kidneys. TA-TMA is challenging to diagnose and treat, which can lead to long-term complications and death in patients with severe disease. Studies have shown that genetic abnormalities of the alternative complement pathway (AP) are associated with TA-TMA. We hypothesized that patients with TA-TMA may generate elevated levels of the AP activation product, Ba, compared with HSCT patients without TA-TMA.

Procedure: We longitudinally measured plasma levels of complement activation products C3a, Ba, and C5a in 14 HSCT patients: 7 with TA-TMA and 7 without TA-TMA. We assessed renal function by calculating estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and correlated the extent of AP activation with renal dysfunction in both patient populations.

Results: The median days from HSCT to study enrollment were 154 (39-237) in the TA-TMA group and 84 (39-253) in the HSCT group without TA-TMA. Median Ba levels (ng/mL) at enrollment were 1096.9 (826.5-1562.0) in the TA-TMA group and 725.7 (494.7-818.9) in the HSCT group without TA-TMA (P = 0.007). Over the study duration, Ba levels inversely correlated with eGFR. There were no differences in C3a, C5a, or sC5b9 levels between the two populations at any measured interval.

Conclusions: We conclude in this preliminary study that Ba protein may serve as a marker for TA-TMA, and furthermore, that components generated in the early phase of AP activation may be involved in the pathogenesis of renal endothelial injury in TA-TMA.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/pbc.28070DOI Listing
March 2020

Publisher Correction: EMT cells increase breast cancer metastasis via paracrine GLI activation in neighbouring tumour cells.

Nat Commun 2018 11 12;9(1):4720. Epub 2018 Nov 12.

Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado-Denver, 12800 East 19th Avenue, Room P18-6115, Aurora, Colorado, 80045, USA.

This Article contains an error in Figure 2. In panel a, the second lane of the western blot should have been labelled 'siNT'. A correct version of Figure 2a appears in the Author Correction associated with this Article; the error has not been fixed in the original Article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-07168-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6232083PMC
November 2018

In Vivo Fate and Activity of Second- versus Third-Generation CD19-Specific CAR-T Cells in B Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas.

Mol Ther 2018 12 13;26(12):2727-2737. Epub 2018 Sep 13.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital and Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX 77030, USA; Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA. Electronic address:

Second-generation (2G) chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) targeting CD19 are highly active against B cell malignancies, but it is unknown whether any of the costimulatory domains incorporated in the CAR have superior activity to others. Because CD28 and 4-1BB signaling activate different pathways, combining them in a single third-generation (3G) CAR may overcome the limitations of each individual costimulatory domain. We designed a clinical trial in which two autologous CD19-specific CAR-transduced T cell products (CD19.CARTs), 2G (with CD28 only) and 3G (CD28 and 4-1BB), were infused simultaneously in 16 patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 3G CD19.CARTs had superior expansion and longer persistence than 2G CD19.CARTs. This difference was most striking in the five patients with low disease burden and few circulating normal B cells, in whom 2G CD19.CARTs had limited expansion and persistence and correspondingly reduced area under the curve. Of the 11 patients with measurable disease, three achieved complete responses and three had partial responses. Cytokine release syndrome occurred in six patients but was mild, and no patient required anti-IL-6 therapy. Hence, 3G CD19.CARTs combining 4-1BB with CD28 produce superior CART expansion and may be of particular value when treating low disease burden in patients whose normal B cells are depleted by prior therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ymthe.2018.09.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277484PMC
December 2018

EBV/LMP-specific T cells maintain remissions of T- and B-cell EBV lymphomas after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation.

Blood 2018 11 27;132(22):2351-2361. Epub 2018 Sep 27.

Center for Cancer and Immunology Research, Children's National Health System and George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Autologous T cells targeting Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent membrane proteins (LMPs) have shown safety and efficacy in the treatment of patients with type 2 latency EBV-associated lymphomas for whom standard therapies have failed, including high-dose chemotherapy followed by autologous stem-cell rescue. However, the safety and efficacy of allogeneic donor-derived LMP-specific T cells (LMP-Ts) have not been established for patients who have undergone allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT). Therefore, we evaluated the safety and efficacy of donor-derived LMP-Ts in 26 patients who had undergone allogeneic HSCT for EBV-associated natural killer/T-cell or B-cell lymphomas. Seven patients received LMP-Ts as therapy for active disease, and 19 were treated with adjuvant therapy for high-risk disease. There were no immediate infusion-related toxicities, and only 1 dose-limiting toxicity potentially related to T-cell infusion was seen. The 2-year overall survival (OS) was 68%. Additionally, patients who received T-cell therapy while in complete remission after allogeneic HSCT had a 78% OS at 2 years. Patients treated for B-cell disease (n = 10) had a 2-year OS of 80%. Patients with T-cell disease had a 2-year OS of 60%, which suggests an improvement compared with published posttransplantation 2-year OS rates of 30% to 50%. Hence, this study shows that donor-derived LMP-Ts are a safe and effective therapy to prevent relapse after transplantation in patients with B cell- or T cell-derived EBV-associated lymphoma or lymphoproliferative disorder and supports the infusion of LMP-Ts as adjuvant therapy to improve outcomes in the posttransplantation setting. These trials were registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00062868 and #NCT01956084.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2018-07-863654DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6265652PMC
November 2018

Therapeutic Plasma Exchange does not Improve Renal Function in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation-Associated Thrombotic Microangiopathy: An Institutional Experience.

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 2019 01 23;25(1):157-162. Epub 2018 Aug 23.

Department of Pediatrics, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas.

Transplantation-associated thrombotic microangiopathy (TA-TMA) is a complication of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) that causes severe multiorgan injury. The kidneys are almost universally affected. There is no proven therapy, but therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) is commonly used to treat TA-TMA at Texas Children's Hospital (TCH). To date, there have been no studies assessing the long-term efficacy of TPE in preventing the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in TA-TMA patients. In this study we retrospectively analyzed the incidence of CKD in TA-TMA pediatric patients treated with TPE to determine if this treatment modality improves renal morbidity. We reviewed records between January 2007 and June 2017 of pediatric HSCT patients diagnosed with TA-TMA, identified through an internal database maintained at TCH. To be included patients must have completed a course of TPE per the "TPE in TA-TMA" institutional protocol at TCH. CKD was defined as kidney damage for at least 3 months and stratified into stages 1 through 5 according to estimated glomerular filtration rate. Stages 4 and 5 were considered "severe CKD." In the 10-year timeframe 15 patients with TA-TMA completed a course of TPE per our institutional protocol and were subsequently followed for a median of 963 days. Fourteen patients developed CKD, and 5 of these 14 patients developed severe CKD. The cumulative incidence of severe CKD development was 33% (95% confidence interval. 11% to 57%). 6 patients required dialysis, and 2 patients received a renal transplant. 5 patients received eculizumab in addition to TPE. In our patients a TPE course of at least 7 weeks (and up to 25 weeks) was not effective in the prevention of CKD. Our data indicate a need for alternative therapeutic measures to prevent the development of CKD in TA-TMA patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbmt.2018.08.016DOI Listing
January 2019

High Incidence of Autoimmune Disease after Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Chronic Granulomatous Disease.

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 2018 08 6;24(8):1643-1650. Epub 2018 Apr 6.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital Cancer Center and Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas. Electronic address:

There is a lack of consensus regarding the role and method of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) on patients with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD). Long-term follow-up after HSCT in these patient population is essential to know its potential complications and decide who will benefit the most from HSCT. We report the outcome of HSCT and long-term follow-up in 24 patients with CGD, transplanted in our center from either related (n = 6) or unrelated (n = 18) donors, over a 12-year period (2003 to 2015), using high-dose alemtuzumab in the preparative regimen. We evaluated the incidence and timing of adverse events and potential risk factors. We described in detailed the novel finding of increased autoimmunity after HSCT in patients with CGD. At a median follow-up of 1460 days, 22 patients were full donor chimeras, and 2 patients had stable mixed chimerism. All assessable patients showed normalization of their neutrophil oxidative burst test. None of the patients developed grades II to IV acute graft-versus-host disease, and no patient had chronic graft-versus-host disease. Twelve of 24 patients developed 17 autoimmune diseases (ADs). Severe ADs (cytopenia and neuropathy) occurred exclusively in the unrelated donor setting and mainly in the first year after HSCT, whereas thyroid AD occurred in the related donor setting as well and more than 3 years after HSCT. Two patients died due to infectious complications after developing autoimmune cytopenias. One additional patient suffered severe brain injury. The remaining 21 patients have long-term Lansky scores ≥ 80. The outcome of HSCT from unrelated donors is comparable with related donors but might carry an increased risk of developing severe AD. A lower dose of alemtuzumab may reduce this risk and should be tested in further studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbmt.2018.03.029DOI Listing
August 2018

Predicting Liver Allograft Discard: The Discard Risk Index.

Transplantation 2018 09;102(9):1520-1529

Division of Abdominal Transplantation and Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

Background: An index that predicts liver allograft discard can effectively grade allografts and can be used to preferentially allocate marginal allografts to aggressive centers. The aim of this study is to devise an index to predict liver allograft discard using only risk factors available at the time of initial DonorNet offer.

Methods: Using univariate and multivariate analyses on a training set of 72 297 deceased donors, we identified independent risk factors for liver allograft discard. Multiple imputation was used to account for missing variables.

Results: We identified 15 factors as significant predictors of liver allograft discard; the most significant risk factors were: total bilirubin > 10 mg/dL (odds ratio [OR], 25.23; confidence interval [CI], 17.32-36.77), donation after circulatory death (OR, 14.13; CI, 13.30-15.01), and total bilirubin 5 to 10 mg/dL (OR, 7.57; 95% CI, 6.32-9.05). The resulting Discard Risk Index (DSRI) accurately predicted the risk of liver discard with a C statistic of 0.80. We internally validated the model with a validation set of 37 243 deceased donors and also achieved a 0.80 C statistic. At a DSRI at the 90th percentile, the discard rate was 50% (OR, 32.34; CI, 28.63-36.53), whereas at a DSRI at 10th percentile, only 3% of livers were discarded.

Conclusions: The use of the DSRI can help predict liver allograft discard. The DSRI can be used to effectively grade allografts and preferentially allocate marginal allografts to aggressive centers to maximize the donor yield and expedite allocation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/TP.0000000000002151DOI Listing
September 2018

Tumor-Specific T-Cells Engineered to Overcome Tumor Immune Evasion Induce Clinical Responses in Patients With Relapsed Hodgkin Lymphoma.

J Clin Oncol 2018 04 9;36(11):1128-1139. Epub 2018 Jan 9.

Catherine M. Bollard, Tamara Tripic, Gianpietro Dotti, Stephen Gottschalk, Vicky Torrano, Olga Dakhova, George Carrum, Carlos A. Ramos, Adrian P. Gee, Malcolm K. Brenner, Helen E. Heslop, and Cliona M. Rooney, Houston Methodist Hospital, and Texas Children's Hospital; Catherine M. Bollard, Gianpietro Dotti, Stephen Gottschalk, George Carrum, Carlos A. Ramos, Hao Liu, Meng-Fen Wu, Andrea N. Marcogliese, Adrian P. Gee, Malcolm K. Brenner, Helen E. Heslop, and Cliona M. Rooney, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX; Catherine M. Bollard, Conrad Russell Cruz, and Cecilia Barese, Children's National Health System, Washington, DC; Youli Zu and Daniel Y. Lee, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; and Owen O'Connor, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, The New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY.

Purpose Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) production in the tumor microenvironment is a potent and ubiquitous tumor immune evasion mechanism that inhibits the expansion and function of tumor-directed responses; therefore, we conducted a clinical study to discover the effects of the forced expression of a dominant-negative TGF-β receptor type 2 (DNRII) on the safety, survival, and activity of infused tumor-directed T cells. Materials and Methods In a dose escalation study, eight patients with Epstein Barr virus-positive Hodgkin lymphoma received two to 12 doses of between 2 × 10 and 1.5 × 10 cells/m of DNRII-expressing T cells with specificity for the Epstein Barr virus-derived tumor antigens, latent membrane protein (LMP)-1 and LMP-2 (DNRII-LSTs). Lymphodepleting chemotherapy was not used before infusion. Results DNRII-LSTs were resistant to otherwise inhibitory concentrations of TGF-β in vitro and retained their tumor antigen-specific activity. After infusion, the signal from transgenic T cells in peripheral blood increased up to 100-fold as measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction for the transgene, with a corresponding increase in the frequency of functional LMP-specific T cells. Expansion was not associated with any acute or long-term toxicity. DNRII-LSTs persisted for up to ≥ 4 years. Four of the seven evaluable patients with active disease achieved clinical responses that were complete and ongoing in two patients at > 4 years, including in one patient who achieved only a partial response to unmodified tumor-directed T cells. Conclusion TGF-β-resistant tumor-specific T cells safely expand and persist in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma without lymphodepleting chemotherapy before infusion. DNRII-LSTs can induce complete responses even in patients with resistant disease. Expression of DNRII may be useful for the many other tumors that exploit this potent immune evasion mechanism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2017.74.3179DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891126PMC
April 2018

No Gains in Long-term Survival After Liver Transplantation Over the Past Three Decades.

Ann Surg 2019 01;269(1):20-27

Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Division of Abdominal Transplantation and Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess improvements in long-term survival after liver transplant by analyzing outcomes in transplant recipients who survived beyond 1 year.

Summary Of Background Data: Gains in short-term survival following liver transplantation have been gratifying. One-year survival in 1986 was 66% improved to over 92% in 2015. However, little is known about why long-term has not seen similar success.

Methods: We analyzed 111,568 recipients from 1987 to 2016 using the Kaplan-Meier method for time-to-event analysis and multivariable Cox regression.

Results: There were no significant gains in unadjusted long-term outcomes among 1-year survivors over the past 30 years. Only the time periods of 1987 to 1990 [hazard ratio (HR) 1.35, confidence interval CI) 1.28-1.42] and 1991 to 1995 (HR 1.17, CI 1.13-1.21) had a minor increase in risk compared with the period 2011 to 2016. Cause of death analysis suggests malignancy after transplantation is a growing problem and preventing recurrent hepatitis C with direct-acting antivirals (DDAs) may only have a limited impact. Furthermore, rejection leading to graft failure and death had a rare occurrence (1.7% of long-term deaths) especially when compared with the sequelae of long-term immunosuppression: malignancy (16.4%), nonrejection graft failure (9.8%), and infection (10.5%) (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: In stark contrast to short-term survival, there have been no appreciable improvements in long-term survival following liver transplantation among 1-year survivors. Long-term sequelae of immunosuppression, including malignancy and infection, are the most common causes of death. This study highlights the need for better long-term immunosuppression management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/SLA.0000000000002650DOI Listing
January 2019

Outcomes after Allogeneic Transplant in Patients with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome.

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 2018 03 28;24(3):537-541. Epub 2017 Nov 28.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Electronic address:

Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a rare X-linked disorder characterized by a triad of immunodeficiency, eczema, and thrombocytopenia. Currently, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the most reliable curative treatment with excellent results for patients with HLA-matched family or unrelated donors. However, even after fully myeloablative preparative regimens, mixed donor chimerism is a potential concern. We performed a retrospective chart review of 12 children who underwent allogeneic HSCT for WAS to report our experience. The median age at transplant was 10.5 months (range, 3 to 39). The median nucleated cell dose from the marrow was 4.55 × 10/kg (range, .3 to 7.9). The median times to neutrophil and platelet engraftment were 19 days (range, 13 to 27) and 18.5 days (range, 12 to 31), respectively. The rate of overall survival was 92% with median follow-up of 67 months (range, 3 to 146). Two patients developed grade IV acute graft-versus-host disease, and 1 died on day +99. Five of 12 patient's (42%) had mixed donor chimerism (range, 12% to 85%) at day +180. None of the pretransplant patient parameters was predictive of mixed chimerism. Nonetheless, of these 5 patients, 2 had normalization of the platelet count despite the mixed chimerism, 2 had full donor chimerism after receiving a second transplant with the same donor, and 1 remains transfusion dependent awaiting a second transplant. Hence, even with a significant rate of mixed chimerism, HSCT provides substantial benefit to WAS patients, with excellent overall survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbmt.2017.11.019DOI Listing
March 2018

c-MPL provides tumor-targeted T-cell receptor-transgenic T cells with costimulation and cytokine signals.

Blood 2017 12 27;130(25):2739-2749. Epub 2017 Oct 27.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital and Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX; and.

Adoptively transferred T-cell receptor (TCR)-engineered T cells depend on host-derived costimulation and cytokine signals for their full and sustained activation. However, in patients with cancer, both signals are frequently impaired. Hence, we developed a novel strategy that combines both essential signals in 1 transgene by expressing the nonlymphoid hematopoietic growth factor receptor c-MPL (myeloproliferative leukemia), the receptor for thrombopoietin (TPO), in T cells. c-MPL signaling activates pathways shared with conventional costimulatory and cytokine receptor signaling. Thus, we hypothesized that host-derived TPO, present in the tumor microenvironment, or pharmacological c-MPL agonists approved by the US Food and Drug Administration could deliver both signals to c-MPL-engineered TCR-transgenic T cells. We found that c-MPL polyclonal T cells expand and proliferate in response to TPO, and persist longer after adoptive transfer in immunodeficient human TPO-transgenic mice. In TCR-transgenic T cells, c-MPL activation enhances antitumor function, T-cell expansion, and cytokine production and preserves a central memory phenotype. c-MPL signaling also enables sequential tumor cell killing, enhances the formation of effective immune synapses, and improves antileukemic activity in vivo in a leukemia xenograft model. We identify the type 1 interferon pathway as a molecular mechanism by which c-MPL mediates immune stimulation in T cells. In conclusion, we present a novel immunotherapeutic strategy using c-MPL-enhanced transgenic T cells responding to either endogenously produced TPO (a microenvironment factor in hematologic malignancies) or c-MPL-targeted pharmacological agents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2017-02-769463DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5746163PMC
December 2017

Trivalent CAR T cells overcome interpatient antigenic variability in glioblastoma.

Neuro Oncol 2018 03;20(4):506-518

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston Methodist Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.

Background: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary malignant brain cancer, and is currently incurable. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have shown promise in GBM treatment. While we have shown that combinatorial targeting of 2 glioma antigens offsets antigen escape and enhances T-cell effector functions, the interpatient variability in surface antigen expression between patients hinders the clinical impact of targeting 2 antigen pairs. This study addresses targeting 3 antigens using a single CAR T-cell product for broader application.

Methods: We analyzed the surface expression of 3 targetable glioma antigens (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 [HER2], interleukin-13 receptor subunit alpha-2 [IL13Rα2], and ephrin-A2 [EphA2]) in 15 primary GBM samples. Accordingly, we created a trivalent T-cell product armed with 3 CAR molecules specific for these validated targets encoded by a single universal (U) tricistronic transgene (UCAR T cells).

Results: Our data showed that co-targeting HER2, IL13Rα2, and EphA2 could overcome interpatient variability by a tendency to capture nearly 100% of tumor cells in most tumors tested in this cohort. UCAR T cells made from GBM patients' blood uniformly expressed all 3 CAR molecules with distinct antigen specificity. UCAR T cells mediated robust immune synapses with tumor targets forming more polarized microtubule organizing centers and exhibited improved cytotoxicity and cytokine release over best monospecific and bispecific CAR T cells per patient tumor profile. Lastly, low doses of UCAR T cells controlled established autologous GBM patient derived xenografts (PDXs) and improved survival of treated animals.

Conclusion: UCAR T cells can overcome antigenic heterogeneity in GBM and lead to improved treatment outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/neuonc/nox182DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5909636PMC
March 2018

CD28 and 41BB Costimulation Enhances the Effector Function of CD19-Specific Engager T Cells.

Cancer Immunol Res 2017 10 18;5(10):860-870. Epub 2017 Aug 18.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston Methodist Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

T cells expressing CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) with endodomains that encode a signaling domain derived from CD3ζ and CD28 or 41BB have potent antitumor activity in early-phase clinical studies for B-cell malignancies. Besides CD19-specific CARs, other approaches are actively being pursued to redirect T cells to CD19, including recombinant bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) proteins or T cells genetically modified to express BiTEs [engager (ENG) T cells]. As BiTEs provide no costimulation, we investigated here if provision of costimulation through CD28 and 41BB enhances the effector function of CD19-ENG T cells. CD19-ENG T cells expressing CD80 and 41BBL on their cell surface (CD19-ENG.41BBL/CD80 T cells) were generated by retroviral transduction. CD19-ENG.41BBL/CD80 T cells retained their antigen specificity and had superior effector function compared with both unmodified T cells and CD19-ENG T cells expressing either CD80, 41BBL, or no costimulatory molecule, as judged by cytokine (IFNγ and IL2) production, T-cell proliferation, and their ability to sequentially kill target cells. , CD19-ENG.41BBL/CD80 T cells had superior antileukemia activity in the BV173 xenograft model, resulting in a survival advantage in comparison to CD19-ENG T cells. Thus, provision of costimulation is critical for the effector function of ENG T cells. .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-17-0171DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5626647PMC
October 2017

Clinical and immunological responses after CD30-specific chimeric antigen receptor-redirected lymphocytes.

J Clin Invest 2017 Sep 14;127(9):3462-3471. Epub 2017 Aug 14.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital and Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA.

Background: Targeting CD30 with monoclonal antibodies in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) has had profound clinical success. However, adverse events, mainly mediated by the toxin component of the conjugated antibodies, cause treatment discontinuation in many patients. Targeting CD30 with T cells expressing a CD30-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) may reduce the side effects and augment antitumor activity.

Methods: We conducted a phase I dose escalation study in which 9 patients with relapsed/refractory HL or ALCL were infused with autologous T cells that were gene-modified with a retroviral vector to express the CD30-specific CAR (CD30.CAR-Ts) encoding the CD28 costimulatory endodomain. Three dose levels, from 0.2 × 108 to 2 × 108 CD30.CAR-Ts/m2, were infused without a conditioning regimen. All other therapy for malignancy was discontinued at least 4 weeks before CD30.CAR-T infusion. Seven patients had previously experienced disease progression while being treated with brentuximab.

Results: No toxicities attributable to CD30.CAR-Ts were observed. Of 7 patients with relapsed HL, 1 entered complete response (CR) lasting more than 2.5 years after the second infusion of CD30.CAR-Ts, 1 remained in continued CR for almost 2 years, and 3 had transient stable disease. Of 2 patients with ALCL, 1 had a CR that persisted 9 months after the fourth infusion of CD30.CAR-Ts. CD30.CAR-T expansion in peripheral blood peaked 1 week after infusion, and CD30.CAR-Ts remained detectable for over 6 weeks. Although CD30 may also be expressed by normal activated T cells, no patients developed impaired virus-specific immunity.

Conclusion: CD30.CAR-Ts are safe and can lead to clinical responses in patients with HL and ALCL, indicating that further assessment of this therapy is warranted.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01316146.

Funding: National Cancer Institute (3P50CA126752, R01CA131027 and P30CA125123), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01HL114564), and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLSTR 6227-08).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI94306DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669573PMC
September 2017

Off-the-Shelf Virus-Specific T Cells to Treat BK Virus, Human Herpesvirus 6, Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr Virus, and Adenovirus Infections After Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation.

J Clin Oncol 2017 Nov 7;35(31):3547-3557. Epub 2017 Aug 7.

Ifigeneia Tzannou, Anastasia Papadopoulou, Swati Naik, Kathryn Leung, Caridad A. Martinez, Carlos A. Ramos, George Carrum, Ghadir Sasa, Premal Lulla, Ayumi Watanabe, Manik Kuvalekar, Adrian P. Gee, Bambi J. Grilley, Robert A. Krance, Stephen Gottschalk, Malcolm K. Brenner, Cliona M. Rooney, Helen E. Heslop, Ann M. Leen, and Bilal Omer, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital, and Houston Methodist Hospital; Meng-Fen Wu and Hao Liu, Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

Purpose Improvement of cure rates for patients treated with allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) will require efforts to decrease treatment-related mortality from severe viral infections. Adoptively transferred virus-specific T cells (VSTs) generated from eligible, third-party donors could provide broad antiviral protection to recipients of HSCT as an immediately available off-the-shelf product. Patient and Methods We generated a bank of VSTs that recognized five common viral pathogens: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), adenovirus (AdV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), BK virus (BKV), and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6). The VSTs were administered to 38 patients with 45 infections in a phase II clinical trial. Results A single infusion produced a cumulative complete or partial response rate of 92% (95% CI, 78.1% to 98.3%) overall and the following rates by virus: 100% for BKV (n = 16), 94% for CMV (n = 17), 71% for AdV (n = 7), 100% for EBV (n = 2), and 67% for HHV-6 (n = 3). Clinical benefit was achieved in 31 patients treated for one infection and in seven patients treated for multiple coincident infections. Thirteen of 14 patients treated for BKV-associated hemorrhagic cystitis experienced complete resolution of gross hematuria by week 6. Infusions were safe, and only two occurrences of de novo graft-versus host disease (grade 1) were observed. VST tracking by epitope profiling revealed persistence of functional VSTs of third-party origin for up to 12 weeks. Conclusion The use of banked VSTs is a feasible, safe, and effective approach to treat severe and drug-refractory infections after HSCT, including infections from two viruses (BKV and HHV-6) that had never been targeted previously with an off-the-shelf product. Furthermore, the multispecificity of the VSTs ensures extensive antiviral coverage, which facilitates the treatment of patients with multiple infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2017.73.0655DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662844PMC
November 2017

EMT cells increase breast cancer metastasis via paracrine GLI activation in neighbouring tumour cells.

Nat Commun 2017 06 12;8:15773. Epub 2017 Jun 12.

Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado-Denver, 12800 East 19th Avenue, Room P18-6115, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.

Recent fate-mapping studies concluded that EMT is not required for metastasis of carcinomas. Here we challenge this conclusion by showing that these studies failed to account for possible crosstalk between EMT and non-EMT cells that promotes dissemination of non-EMT cells. In breast cancer models, EMT cells induce increased metastasis of weakly metastatic, non-EMT tumour cells in a paracrine manner, in part by non-cell autonomous activation of the GLI transcription factor. Treatment with GANT61, a GLI1/2 inhibitor, but not with IPI 926, a Smoothened inhibitor, blocks this effect and inhibits growth in PDX models. In human breast tumours, the EMT-transcription factors strongly correlate with activated Hedgehog/GLI signalling but not with the Hh ligands. Our findings indicate that EMT contributes to metastasis via non-cell autonomous effects that activate the Hh pathway. Although all Hh inhibitors may act against tumours with canonical Hh/GLI signalling, only GLI inhibitors would act against non-canonical EMT-induced GLI activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15773DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472791PMC
June 2017

Transgenic Expression of IL15 Improves Antiglioma Activity of IL13Rα2-CAR T Cells but Results in Antigen Loss Variants.

Cancer Immunol Res 2017 07 26;5(7):571-581. Epub 2017 May 26.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston Methodist, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most aggressive primary brain tumor in adults and is virtually incurable with conventional therapies. Immunotherapy with T cells expressing GBM-specific chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) is an attractive approach to improve outcomes. Although CAR T cells targeting GBM antigens, such as IL13 receptor subunit α2 (IL13Rα2), HER2, and EGFR variant III (EGFRvIII), have had antitumor activity in preclinical models, early-phase clinical testing has demonstrated limited antiglioma activity. Transgenic expression of IL15 is an appealing strategy to enhance CAR T-cell effector function. We tested this approach in our IL13Rα2-positive glioma model in which limited IL13Rα2-CAR T-cell persistence results in recurrence of antigen-positive gliomas. T cells were genetically modified with retroviral vectors encoding IL13Rα2-CARs or IL15 (IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T cells). IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T cells recognized glioma cells in an antigen-dependent fashion, had greater proliferative capacity, and produced more cytokines after repeated stimulations in comparison with IL13Rα2-CAR T cells. No autonomous IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T-cell proliferation was observed; however, IL15 expression increased IL13Rα2-CAR T-cell viability in the absence of exogenous cytokines or antigen. , IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T cells persisted longer and had greater antiglioma activity than IL13Rα2-CAR T cells, resulting in a survival advantage. Gliomas recurring after 40 days after T-cell injection had downregulated IL13Rα2 expression, indicating that antigen loss variants occur in the setting of improved T-cell persistence. Thus, CAR T cells for GBM should not only be genetically modified to improve their proliferation and persistence, but also to target multiple antigens. Glioblastoma responds imperfectly to immunotherapy. Transgenic expression of IL15 in T cells expressing CARs improved their proliferative capacity, persistence, and cytokine production. The emergence of antigen loss variants highlights the need to target multiple tumor antigens. .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-16-0376DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5746871PMC
July 2017

HER2-Specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Modified Virus-Specific T Cells for Progressive Glioblastoma: A Phase 1 Dose-Escalation Trial.

JAMA Oncol 2017 Aug;3(8):1094-1101

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston Methodist Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

Importance: Glioblastoma is an incurable tumor, and the therapeutic options for patients are limited.

Objective: To determine whether the systemic administration of HER2-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified virus-specific T cells (VSTs) is safe and whether these cells have antiglioblastoma activity.

Design, Setting, And Participants: In this open-label phase 1 dose-escalation study conducted at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, and Texas Children's Hospital, patients with progressive HER2-positive glioblastoma were enrolled between July 25, 2011, and April 21, 2014. The duration of follow-up was 10 weeks to 29 months (median, 8 months).

Interventions: Monotherapy with autologous VSTs specific for cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, or adenovirus and genetically modified to express HER2-CARs with a CD28.ζ-signaling endodomain (HER2-CAR VSTs).

Main Outcomes And Measures: Primary end points were feasibility and safety. The key secondary end points were T-cell persistence and their antiglioblastoma activity.

Results: A total of 17 patients (8 females and 9 males; 10 patients ≥18 years [median age, 60 years; range, 30-69 years] and 7 patients <18 years [median age, 14 years; range, 10-17 years]) with progressive HER2-positive glioblastoma received 1 or more infusions of autologous HER2-CAR VSTs (1 × 106/m2 to 1 × 108/m2) without prior lymphodepletion. Infusions were well tolerated, with no dose-limiting toxic effects. HER2-CAR VSTs were detected in the peripheral blood for up to 12 months after the infusion by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Of 16 evaluable patients (9 adults and 7 children), 1 had a partial response for more than 9 months, 7 had stable disease for 8 weeks to 29 months, and 8 progressed after T-cell infusion. Three patients with stable disease are alive without any evidence of progression during 24 to 29 months of follow-up. For the entire study cohort, median overall survival was 11.1 months (95% CI, 4.1-27.2 months) from the first T-cell infusion and 24.5 months (95% CI, 17.2-34.6 months) from diagnosis.

Conclusions And Relevance: Infusion of autologous HER2-CAR VSTs is safe and can be associated with clinical benefit for patients with progressive glioblastoma. Further evaluation of HER2-CAR VSTs in a phase 2b study is warranted as a single agent or in combination with other immunomodulatory approaches for glioblastoma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.0184DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5747970PMC
August 2017

The optimal timing of surgical resection in high-risk neuroblastoma.

J Pediatr Surg 2016 Oct 7;51(10):1665-9. Epub 2016 Jun 7.

Division of Pediatric Surgery, Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX; Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Electronic address:

Background: While most high-risk neuroblastoma (HRNB) patients are enrolled in cooperative group or institutional protocols, variability exists within these protocols as to when surgical resection of the primary tumor should be performed after neoadjuvant induction chemotherapy. We sought to determine if the number of chemotherapy cycles prior to surgery affects surgical or survival outcomes in HRNB patients.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all HRNB patients <18years of age from 2000 to 2010, at Texas Children's Hospital. Patients were stratified based on the number of neoadjuvant induction chemotherapy cycles prior to surgical resection. Pre and post- chemotherapy tumor size, MYCN status, iodine-131-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) score at diagnosis, extent of surgical resection, estimated surgical blood loss, post-operative outcomes, and event free (EFS) and overall survival (OS) were evaluated. Data were analyzed using Wilcoxon rank-sum test, Kruskal-Wallis test, Fisher's exact test, Kaplan-Meier analyses, and Cox regression analyses. P-value <0.05 was considered significant.

Results: Data from 50 patients with HRNB were analyzed. Patients were stratified by the number of cycles of chemotherapy received prior to surgery. Six patients received 2cycles of chemotherapy (12%), 20 patients received 3cycles (40%), 13 patients received 4cycles (26%), and 11 patients received 5cycles (22%) prior to surgical resection of the primary tumor. The 5-year OS was 33%, 45%, 83% and 36% in patients who received 2, 3, 4 and 5cycles of chemotherapy prior to surgery, respectively (p=0.07). Multivariate analysis revealed that patients who received 4cycles of chemotherapy had a significantly lower mortality (HR: 0.11, 95% CI: 0.01-0.87, p=0.04) compared to those with 2cycles of chemotherapy. Among the different cohorts, there were no differences with respect to MYCN status, MIBG score at diagnosis, incidence of bone marrow metastasis, extent of surgical resection, estimated blood loss, incidence of post-operative complications, or length of stay.

Conclusion: HRNB patients who receive 4cycles of chemotherapy prior to surgical resection have a superior OS than patients who receive 2. Based on the superior survival of patients who received 4cycles of chemotherapy prior to surgery, further studies are warranted to elucidate these differences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2016.05.021DOI Listing
October 2016

Clinical responses with T lymphocytes targeting malignancy-associated κ light chains.

J Clin Invest 2016 07 6;126(7):2588-96. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

Background: Treatment of B cell malignancies with adoptive transfer of T cells with a CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) shows remarkable clinical efficacy. However, long-term persistence of T cells targeting CD19, a pan-B cell marker, also depletes normal B cells and causes severe hypogammaglobulinemia. Here, we developed a strategy to target B cell malignancies more selectively by taking advantage of B cell light Ig chain restriction. We generated a CAR that is specific for the κ light chain (κ.CAR) and therefore recognizes κ-restricted cells and spares the normal B cells expressing the nontargeted λ light chain, thus potentially minimizing humoral immunity impairment.

Methods: We conducted a phase 1 clinical trial and treated 16 patients with relapsed or refractory κ+ non-Hodgkin lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia (NHL/CLL) or multiple myeloma (MM) with autologous T cells genetically modified to express κ.CAR (κ.CARTs). Other treatments were discontinued in 11 of the 16 patients at least 4 weeks prior to T cell infusion. Six patients without lymphopenia received 12.5 mg/kg cyclophosphamide 4 days before κ.CART infusion (0.2 × 108 to 2 × 108 κ.CARTs/m2). No other lymphodepletion was used.

Results: κ.CART expansion peaked 1-2 weeks after infusion, and cells remained detectable for more than 6 weeks. Of 9 patients with relapsed NHL or CLL, 2 entered complete remission after 2 and 3 infusions of κ.CARTs, and 1 had a partial response. Of 7 patients with MM, 4 had stable disease lasting 2-17 months. No toxicities attributable to κ.CARTs were observed.

Conclusion: κ.CART infusion is feasible and safe and can lead to complete clinical responses.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00881920.

Funding: National Cancer Institute (NCI) grants 3P50CA126752 and 5P30CA125123 and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Specialized Centers of Research (SCOR) grant 7018.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI86000DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4922690PMC
July 2016

Characterization and Functional Analysis of scFv-based Chimeric Antigen Receptors to Redirect T Cells to IL13Rα2-positive Glioma.

Mol Ther 2016 Feb 30;24(2):354-363. Epub 2015 Oct 30.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston Methodist, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Children's Cancer Center, Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA; Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA; Department of Pathology and Immunology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA. Electronic address:

Immunotherapy with T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) is an attractive approach to improve outcomes for patients with glioblastoma (GBM). IL13Rα2 is expressed at a high frequency in GBM but not in normal brain, making it a promising CAR T-cell therapy target. IL13Rα2-specific CARs generated up to date contain mutated forms of IL13 as an antigen-binding domain. While these CARs target IL13Rα2, they also recognize IL13Rα1, which is broadly expressed. To overcome this limitation, we constructed a panel of IL13Rα2-specific CARs that contain the IL13Rα2-specific single-chain variable fragment (scFv) 47 as an antigen binding domain, short or long spacer regions, a transmembrane domain, and endodomains derived from costimulatory molecules and CD3.ζ (IL13Rα2-CARs). IL13Rα2-CAR T cells recognized IL13Rα2-positive target cells in coculture and cytotoxicity assays with no cross-reactivity to IL13Rα1. However, only IL13Rα2-CAR T cells with a short spacer region produced IL2 in an antigen-dependent fashion. In vivo, T cells expressing IL13Rα2-CARs with short spacer regions and CD28.ζ, 41BB.ζ, and CD28.OX40.ζ endodomains had potent anti-glioma activity conferring a significant survival advantage in comparison to mice that received control T cells. Thus, IL13Rα2-CAR T cells hold the promise to improve current IL13Rα2-targeted immunotherapy approaches for GBM and other IL13Rα2-positive malignancies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/mt.2015.199DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4817815PMC
February 2016

An essential role for Gα(i2) in Smoothened-stimulated epithelial cell proliferation in the mammary gland.

Sci Signal 2015 Sep 15;8(394):ra92. Epub 2015 Sep 15.

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA. Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA. Department of Radiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Hedgehog (Hh) signaling is critical for organogenesis, tissue homeostasis, and stem cell maintenance. The gene encoding Smoothened (SMO), the primary effector of Hh signaling, is expressed aberrantly in human breast cancer, as well as in other cancers. In mice that express a constitutively active form of SMO that does not require Hh stimulation in mammary glands, the cells near the transgenic cells proliferate and participate in hyperplasia formation. Although SMO is a seven-transmembrane receptor like G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), SMO-mediated activation of the Gli family of transcription factors is not known to involve G proteins. However, data from Drosophila and mammalian cell lines indicate that SMO functions as a GPCR that couples to heterotrimeric G proteins of the pertussis toxin (PTX)-sensitive Gαi class. Using genetically modified mice, we demonstrated that SMO signaling through G proteins occurred in the mammary gland in vivo. SMO-induced stimulation of proliferation was PTX-sensitive and required Gαi2, but not Gαi1, Gαi3, or activation of Gli1 or Gli2. Our findings show that activated SMO functions as a GPCR to stimulate proliferation in vivo, a finding that may have clinical importance because most SMO-targeted agents have been selected based largely on their ability to block Gli-mediated transcription.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scisignal.aaa7355DOI Listing
September 2015

A phase 2 study of bortezomib in combination with ifosfamide/vinorelbine in paediatric patients and young adults with refractory/recurrent Hodgkin lymphoma: a Children's Oncology Group study.

Br J Haematol 2015 Jul 1;170(1):118-22. Epub 2015 Apr 1.

Department of Pediatrics, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.

A Children's Oncology Group clinical trial aimed to determine if bortezomib (B) increased the efficacy of ifosfamide and vinorelbine (IV) in paediatric Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). This study enrolled 26 relapsed HL patients (<30 years) treated with two to four cycles of IVB. The primary endpoint was anatomic complete response (CR) after two cycles. Secondary endpoints included overall response (OR: CR + partial response) at study completion compared to historical controls [72%; 95% confidence interval (CI): 59-83%]. Although few patients achieved the primary objective, OR with IVB improved to 83% (95% CI: 61-95%; p = 0.32). Although not statistically different, results suggest IVB may be a promising combination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjh.13388DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4478135PMC
July 2015

Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) -Specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Modified T Cells for the Immunotherapy of HER2-Positive Sarcoma.

J Clin Oncol 2015 May 23;33(15):1688-96. Epub 2015 Mar 23.

Nabil Ahmed, Vita S. Brawley, Meenakshi Hegde, Catherine Robertson, Alexia Ghazi, Claudia Gerken, Enli Liu, Olga Dakhova, Aidin Ashoori, Amanda Corder, Tara Gray, Gianpietro Dotti, Zhuyong Mei, Bambi Grilley, Adrian Gee, Cliona M. Rooney, Malcolm K. Brenner, Helen E. Heslop, and Stephen Gottschalk, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital; Nabil Ahmed, Vita S. Brawley, Meenakshi Hegde, Catherine Robertson, Alexia Ghazi, Claudia Gerken, Enli Liu, Olga Dakhova, Aidin Ashoori, Amanda Corder, Tara Gray, John Hicks, Nino Rainusso, Zhuyong Mei, Bambi Grilley, Adrian Gee, Cliona M. Rooney, Malcolm K. Brenner, Helen E. Heslop, Lisa L. Wang, and Stephen Gottschalk, Texas Children's Cancer Center, Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine; Nabil Ahmed, Vita S. Brawley, Meenakshi Hegde, Catherine Robertson, Alexia Ghazi, Claudia Gerken, Enli Liu, Olga Dakhova, Aidin Ashoori, Amanda Corder, Tara Gray, Meng-Fen Wu, Hao Liu, John Hicks, Nino Rainusso, Gianpietro Dotti, Zhuyong Mei, Bambi Grilley, Adrian Gee, Cliona M. Rooney, Malcolm K. Brenner, Helen E. Heslop, Lisa L. Wang, and Stephen Gottschalk, Baylor College of Medicine; Peter Anderson, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX; Peter Anderson, Levine Children's Hospital, Levine Cancer Institute, Carolinas Healthcare System, Charlotte NC; and Winfried S. Wels, Georg-Speyer-Haus, Institute for Tumor Biology and Experimental Therapy, Frankfurt, Germany.

Purpose: The outcome for patients with metastatic or recurrent sarcoma remains poor. Adoptive therapy with tumor-directed T cells is an attractive therapeutic option but has never been evaluated in sarcoma.

Patients And Methods: We conducted a phase I/II clinical study in which patients with recurrent/refractory human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) -positive sarcoma received escalating doses (1 × 10(4)/m(2) to 1 × 10(8)/m(2)) of T cells expressing an HER2-specific chimeric antigen receptor with a CD28.ζ signaling domain (HER2-CAR T cells).

Results: We enrolled 19 patients with HER2-positive tumors (16 osteosarcomas, one Ewing sarcoma, one primitive neuroectodermal tumor, and one desmoplastic small round cell tumor). HER2-CAR T-cell infusions were well tolerated with no dose-limiting toxicity. At dose level 3 (1 × 10(5)/m(2)) and above, we detected HER2-CAR T cells 3 hours after infusion by quantitative polymerase chain reaction in 14 of 16 patients. HER2-CAR T cells persisted for at least 6 weeks in seven of the nine evaluable patients who received greater than 1 × 10(6)/m(2) HER2-CAR T cells (P = .005). HER2-CAR T cells were detected at tumor sites of two of two patients examined. Of 17 evaluable patients, four had stable disease for 12 weeks to 14 months. Three of these patients had their tumor removed, with one showing ≥ 90% necrosis. The median overall survival of all 19 infused patients was 10.3 months (range, 5.1 to 29.1 months).

Conclusion: This first evaluation of the safety and efficacy of HER2-CAR T cells in patients with cancer shows the cells can persist for 6 weeks without evident toxicities, setting the stage for studies that combine HER2-CAR T cells with other immunomodulatory approaches to enhance their expansion and persistence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2014.58.0225DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4429176PMC
May 2015

Outcomes after Second Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantations in Pediatric Patients with Relapsed Hematological Malignancies.

Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 2015 Jul 10;21(7):1266-72. Epub 2015 Mar 10.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital and Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas.

Relapse of hematological malignancies after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) is associated with poor prognosis. A second HCT represents one of the few therapeutic options for these high-risk patients. For children undergoing second HCT, the outcome data are particularly limited. We, therefore, conducted a retrospective single-institution study and report the outcomes and prognostic variables associated with overall survival (OS) and relapse in 43 pediatric patients who underwent a second HCT between 2000 and 2013. Eleven of the 43 patients who underwent transplantation remain alive and disease-free at a median follow-up of 49 months (range, 5 to 127 months). The 5-year probability of OS for the entire cohort was 24%. Patients who had early relapse (<6 months) after first HCT had significantly worse OS than those who relapsed late (>6 months), with 5-year OS at 11% versus 34%, respectively (hazard ratio [HR], 2.24; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.21 to 4.93; P = .013). Active disease at time of second HCT was also associated with a significantly increased risk of relapse (subdistribution hazard ratio [SHR], 2.36; P = .049) for the entire cohort and relapse was the most frequent cause of death (23 of 32; 72%). On subgroup analysis for the 34 patients with leukemia alone, presence of active disease was associated both with a significant decrease in OS (SHR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.02 to 5.09; P = .044) and significant increase in the rate of relapse (SHR, 2.46; P = .046). By contrast, underlying disease, donor source, conditioning regimen, or development of GVHD did not modify OS or rate of relapse. Hence, a second HCT appears to be a useful therapeutic option in children with relapsed hematological malignancies that is most likely to benefit those individuals with late onset of relapse and with low disease burden at the time of transplantation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbmt.2015.02.024DOI Listing
July 2015

Survivin-specific T cell receptor targets tumor but not T cells.

J Clin Invest 2015 Jan 21;125(1):157-68. Epub 2014 Nov 21.

Survivin is a tumor-associated antigen (TAA) that inhibits apoptosis and is widely overexpressed in cancer cells; therefore, survivin has potential as a target for cancer immunotherapy. Application of HLA-A2-restricted survivin-specific T cell receptors (TCRs) isolated from allogeneic HLA-mismatched TCR repertoires has, however, been impeded by the inability of these TCRs to distinguish healthy cells expressing low levels of survivin from cancer cells with high survivin expression levels. Here, we identified an HLA-A2-restricted survivin-specific TCR isolated from autologous TCR repertoires that targets tumor cells in vitro and in vivo but does not cause fratricidal toxicity. Molecular modeling of the TCR-peptide-HLA ternary complexes and alanine scanning revealed that the autologously derived TCRs had tighter interactions with the survivin peptide than did fratricidal TCRs. Similar recognition patterns were observed among 7 additional TAA-specific TCRs isolated from allogeneic versus autologous repertoires. Together, the results from this study indicate that maximal peptide recognition is key for TCR selectivity and likely critical for reducing unwanted off-target toxicities. Moreover, isolating TCRs from autologous repertoires to maximize TCR selectivity has potential as a useful strategy to identify and select other shared tumor- and self-antigen-specific TCRs and ensure selective antitumor activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI75876DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382259PMC
January 2015

Long-term outcome after haploidentical stem cell transplant and infusion of T cells expressing the inducible caspase 9 safety transgene.

Blood 2014 Jun 21;123(25):3895-905. Epub 2014 Apr 21.

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy and.

Adoptive transfer of donor-derived T lymphocytes expressing a safety switch may promote immune reconstitution in patients undergoing haploidentical hematopoietic stem cell transplant (haplo-HSCT) without the risk for uncontrolled graft versus host disease (GvHD). Thus, patients who develop GvHD after infusion of allodepleted donor-derived T cells expressing an inducible human caspase 9 (iC9) had their disease effectively controlled by a single administration of a small-molecule drug (AP1903) that dimerizes and activates the iC9 transgene. We now report the long-term follow-up of 10 patients infused with such safety switch-modified T cells. We find long-term persistence of iC9-modified (iC9-T) T cells in vivo in the absence of emerging oligoclonality and a robust immunologic benefit, mediated initially by the infused cells themselves and subsequently by an apparently accelerated reconstitution of endogenous naive T lymphocytes. As a consequence, these patients have immediate and sustained protection from major pathogens, including cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, BK virus, and Epstein-Barr virus in the absence of acute or chronic GvHD, supporting the beneficial effects of this approach to immune reconstitution after haplo-HSCT. This study was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00710892.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2014-01-551671DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4064331PMC
June 2014

Ultra low-dose IL-2 for GVHD prophylaxis after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation mediates expansion of regulatory T cells without diminishing antiviral and antileukemic activity.

Clin Cancer Res 2014 Apr 26;20(8):2215-25. Epub 2014 Feb 26.

Authors' Affiliations: Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine; The Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas; and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland.

Purpose: GVHD after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) has been associated with low numbers of circulating CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs). Because Tregs express high levels of the interleukin (IL)-2 receptor, they may selectively expand in vivo in response to doses of IL-2 insufficient to stimulate T effector T-cell populations, thereby preventing GVHD.

Experimental Design: We prospectively evaluated the effects of ultra low-dose (ULD) IL-2 injections on Treg recovery in pediatric patients after alloSCT and compared this recovery with Treg reconstitution post alloSCT in patients without IL-2. Sixteen recipients of related (n = 12) or unrelated (n = 4) donor grafts received ULD IL-2 post hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT; 100,000-200,000 IU/m(2) ×3 per week), starting
Results: No grade 3/4 toxicities were associated with ULD IL-2. CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(+) Tregs increased from a mean of 4.8% (range, 0%-11.0%) pre IL-2 to 11.1% (range, 1.2%-31.1%) following therapy, with the greatest change occurring in the recipients of matched related donor (MRD) transplants. No IL-2 patients developed grade 2-4 acute GVHD (aGVHD), compared with 4 of 33 (12%) of the comparator group who did not receive IL-2. IL-2 recipients retained T cells reactive to viral and leukemia antigens, and in the MRD recipients, only 2 of 13 (15%) of the IL-2 patients developed viral infections versus 63% of the comparator group (P = 0.022).

Conclusions: Hence, ULD IL-2 is well tolerated, expands a Treg population in vivo, and may be associated with a lower incidence of viral infections and GVHD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-3205DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3989436PMC
April 2014