Practical considerations for chimeric antigen receptor design and delivery.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cells emerged as effective tools in the immunotherapy of cancer but can produce severe on-target off-tissue toxicities. This risk can conceivably be overcome, at least partially, by transient transfection. The design of CARs, however, has so far not been optimized for use in non-permanent T cell modification. Here we compared the performance of T cells modified with three different first- and second-generation CARs, each specific for MCSP (HMW-MAA) which is commonly expressed by melanoma cells. Upon RNA transfer, the expression of all receptors was limited in time. The second-generation CARs, which combined CD28-CD3ζ signaling, were expressed at higher levels and more prolonged than first-generation CARs with CD3ζ only. The CD28 domain increased the cytokine production, but had only an indirect effect on the lytic capacity, by prolonging the CAR expression. Especially for the second-generation CARs, the scFv clearly impacted the level and duration of CAR expression and the T cell performance. Thus, we identified a CAR high in both expression and anti-tumor cell reactivity. T cells transfected with this CAR increased the mean survival time of mice after challenge with melanoma cells. To facilitate clinical application, this CAR was used to redirect T cells from late-stage melanoma patients by RNA transfection. These T cells mediated effective antigen-specific tumor cell lysis and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, even after cryoconservation of the transfected T cells. Taken together, the analysis identified a CAR with superior anti-melanoma performance after RNA transfer which is a promising candidate for clinical exploration.