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Sensitive detection of integrated and free transcripts in chimeric antigen receptor T-cell manufactured cell products using droplet digital polymerase chain reaction

  • Timothy D. Wiltshire
    Affiliations
    Immune, Progenitor and Cell Therapeutics Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Division of Transfusion Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
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  • Dragana Milosevic
    Affiliations
    Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Division of Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA
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  • Eapen K. Jacob
    Affiliations
    Immune, Progenitor and Cell Therapeutics Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Division of Transfusion Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
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  • Stefan K. Grebe
    Affiliations
    Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Division of Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

    Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA
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  • Allan B. Dietz
    Correspondence
    Correspondence: Allan B. Dietz, PhD, Immune, Progenitor and Cell Therapeutics Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Division of Transfusion Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Hilton 3-78, 200 1st St SW, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.
    Affiliations
    Immune, Progenitor and Cell Therapeutics Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Division of Transfusion Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
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Published:March 11, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcyt.2020.12.012

      Abstract

      Background Aims

      Viral vectors are commonly used to introduce chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) constructs into cell therapy products for the treatment of human disease. They are efficient at gene delivery and integrate into the host genome for subsequent replication but also carry risks if replication-competent lentivirus (RCL) remains in the final product. An optimal CAR T-cell product should contain sufficient integrated viral material and no RCL. Current product testing methods include cell-based assays with slow turnaround times and rapid quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays that suffer from high result variability. The authors describe the development of a droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) method for detection of the vesicular stomatitis virus G glycoprotein envelope sequence, required for viral assembly, and the replication response element to measure integration of the CAR construct.

      Methods

      Assay validation included precision, linearity, sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility over a range of low to high concentrations.

      Results

      The limit of detection was 10 copies/μL, whereas negative samples showed <1.3 copies/μL. Within and between assay imprecision coefficients of variation across the reportable range (10–10 000 copies/μL) were <25%. Accuracy and linearity were verified by comparing known copy numbers with measured copy numbers (R2 >0.9985, slope ~0.9). Finally, serial measurements demonstrated very good long-term reproducibility (>95% of replicate results within the originally established ± two standard deviations).

      Conclusions

      DDPCR has excellent reproducibility, linearity, specificity and sensitivity for detecting RCL and assuring the safety of patient products in a rapid manner. The technique can also likely be adapted for the rapid detection of other targets during cell product manufacturing, including purity, potency and sterility assays.

      Key Words

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