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CCR7 expression in CD19 chimeric antigen receptor-engineered natural killer cells improves migration toward CCL19-expressing lymphoma cells and increases tumor control in mice with human lymphoma

Published:April 08, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcyt.2022.02.006

      Abstract

      Background aims

      Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy can be associated with significant toxicities. CAR-engineered natural killer (NK) cells provide a safer alternative while maintaining anti-tumor effects. Activated NK (aNK) cells are a clinical-grade cellular product obtained from the NK-92 cell line that have demonstrated both safety and potent cytotoxicity toward a wide range of cancers in phase 1 trials. Genetically engineered variants of aNK cells expressing a high-affinity Fc receptor (haNK) or co-expressing a CAR (t-haNK) are currently in phase 1/2 clinical trials. A key factor in the efficacy of cellular immunotherapies is biodistribution and tumor infiltration, which affect the local effector:target ratio. The chemokines CCL19 and CCL21 can drive recruitment of CCR7 receptor-expressing immune cells to secondary lymphoid organs.

      Methods

      Since NK-92 cells do not spontaneously express CCR7, clinical-grade aNK cells were transfected with a non-viral vector containing the CCR7 receptor, an anti-CD19 CAR and a high-affinity CD16 Fc receptor.

      Results

      CCR7-engineered CD19 t-haNK showed significant migration in vitro toward K562 cells engineered to secrete CCL19. This observation was confirmed in a NOD.Cg-Prkdcscid Il2rgtm1Wjl/SzJ (NSG) mouse model in which subcutaneous tumors of CCL19-expressing K562 cells displayed a higher number of infiltrating CCR7_CD19 t-haNK cells than CCR7-negative CD19 t-haNK cells. In NSG mice inoculated either intravenously or subcutaneously with CCL19-secreting Raji cells, treatment with CCR7_CD19 t-haNK improved survival and tumor control compared with CD19 t-haNK or vehicle.

      Conclusions

      Expression of CCR7 receptor by off-the-shelf t-haNK cells improves their homing toward lymph node chemokines both in vitro and in vivo, resulting in superior tumor control.

      Key Words

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