Engineering NK Cells Modified With an EGFRvIII-specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor to Overexpress CXCR4 Improves Immunotherapy of CXCL12/SDF-1α-secreting Glioblastoma

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Natural killer (NK) cells are promising effector cells for adjuvant immunotherapy of cancer. So far, several preclinical studies have shown the feasibility of gene-engineered NK cells, which upon expression of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are redirected to otherwise NK cell–resistant tumors. Yet, we reasoned that the efficiency of an immunotherapy using CAR-modified NK cells critically relies on efficient migration to the tumor site and might be improved by the engraftment of a receptor specific for a chemokine released by the tumor. On the basis of the DNAX-activation protein 12 (DAP12), a signaling adapter molecule involved in signal transduction of activating NK cell receptors, we constructed an epidermal growth factor variant III (EGFRvIII)-CAR, designated MR1.1-DAP12 which confers specific cytotoxicity of NK cell towards EGFRvIII+ glioblastoma cells in vitro and to established subcutaneous U87-MGEGFRvIII tumor xenografts. So far, infusion of NK cells with expression of MR1.1-DAP12 caused a moderate but significantly delayed tumor growth and increased median survival time when compared with NK cells transduced with an ITAM-defective CAR. Notably, the further genetic engineering of these EGFRvIII-specific NK cells with the chemokine receptor CXCR4 conferred a specific chemotaxis to CXCL12/SDF-1α secreting U87-MG glioblastoma cells. Moreover, the administration of such NK cells resulted in complete tumor remission in a number of mice and a significantly increased survival when compared with the treatment of xenografts with NK cells expressing only the EGFRvIII-specific CAR or mock control. We conclude that chemokine receptor–engineered NK cells with concomitant expression of a tumor-specific CAR are a promising tool to improve adoptive tumor immunotherapy.

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