Cancer immunology research 2018 07 20() pii 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-17-0405


The success of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-mediated immunotherapy in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) highlights the potential of T-cell therapies with directed cytotoxicity against specific tumor antigens. The efficacy of CAR T-cell therapy depends on the engraftment and persistence of T cells following adoptive transfer. Most protocols for T-cell engineering routinely expand T cells ex vivo for 9-14 days. Because the potential for engraftment and persistence is related to the state of T-cell differentiation, we hypothesized that reducing the duration of ex vivo culture would limit differentiation and enhance the efficacy of CAR T-cell therapy. We demonstrated that T cells with a CAR targeting CD19 (CART19) exhibited less differentiation and enhanced effector function in vitro when harvested from cultures at earlier (day 3 or 5) compared with later (day 9) timepoints. We then compared the therapeutic potential of early versus late harvested CART19 in a murine xenograft model of ALL and showed that the anti-leukemic activity inversely correlated with ex vivo culture time: day 3 harvested cells showed robust tumor control despite using a 6-fold lower dose of CART19, whereas day 9 cells failed to control leukemia at limited cell doses. We also demonstrated the feasibility of an abbreviated culture in a large-scale cGMP-compliant process. Limiting the interval between T-cell isolation and CAR treatment is critical for patients with rapidly progressing disease. Generating CAR T cells in less time also improves potency, which is central to the effectiveness of these therapies.