Adoptive T cell therapy (ACT) with genetically modified T cells has shown impressive results against some hematologic cancers, but efficacy in solid tumors can be limited by restrictive tumor microenvironments (TMEs). For example, Fas ligand is commonly overexpressed in TMEs and induces apoptosis in tumor-infiltrating, Fas receptor-positive lymphocytes. We engineered immunomodulatory fusion proteins (IFPs) to enhance ACT efficacy, combining an inhibitory receptor ectodomain with a costimulatory endodomain to convert negative into positive signals. We developed a Fas-4-1BB IFP that replaces the Fas intracellular tail with costimulatory 4-1BB. Fas-4-1BB IFP-engineered murine T cells exhibited increased pro-survival signaling, proliferation, antitumor function, and altered metabolism in vitro. In vivo, Fas-4-1BB ACT eradicated leukemia and significantly improved survival in the aggressive KPC pancreatic cancer model. Fas-4-1BB IFP expression also enhanced primary human T cell function in vitro. Thus, Fas-4-1BB IFP expression is a novel strategy to improve multiple T cell functions and enhance ACT against solid tumors and hematologic malignancies.
© 2020 Oda et al.