RNA-transfection of γ/δ T cells with a chimeric antigen receptor or an α/β T-cell receptor: a safer alternative to genetically engineered α/β T cells for the immunotherapy of melanoma
Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which combine an antibody-derived binding domain (single chain fragment variable) with T-cell-activating signaling domains, have become a promising tool in the adoptive cellular therapy of cancer. Retro- and lenti-viral transductions are currently the standard methods to equip T cells with a CAR; permanent CAR expression, however, harbors several risks like uncontrolled auto-reactivity. Modification of T cells by electroporation with CAR-encoding RNA to achieve transient expression likely circumvents these difficulties. We here present a GMP-compliant protocol to activate and expand T cells for clinical application. The protocol is optimized in particular to produce CAR-modified T cells in clinically sufficient numbers under full GMP-compliance from late-stage cancer patients. This protocol allows the generation of 6.7 × 108 CAR-expressing T cells from one patient leukapheresis. The CAR-engineered T cells produced pro-inflammatory cytokines after stimulation with antigen-bearing tumor cells and lysed tumor cells in an antigen-specific manner. This functional capacity was maintained after cryopreservation. Taken together, we provide a clinically applicable protocol to transiently engineer sufficient numbers of antigen-specific patient T cells for use in adoptive cell therapy of cancer.