Construction and Preclinical Evaluation of an Anti-CD19 Chimeric Antigen Receptor

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T cells can be engineered to express the genes of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that recognize tumor-associated antigens. We constructed and compared 2 CARs that contained a single chain variable region moiety that recognized CD19. One CAR contained the signaling moiety of the 4-1BB molecule and the other did not. We selected the CAR that did not contain the 4-1BB moiety for further preclinical development. We demonstrated that gammaretroviruses encoding this receptor could transduce human T cells. Anti-CD19-CAR-transduced CD8+ and CD4+ T cells produced interferon-γ and interleukin-2 specifically in response to CD19+ target cells. The transduced T cells specifically killed primary chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. We transduced T cells from CLL patients that had been previously treated with chemotherapy. We induced these T cells to proliferate sufficiently to provide enough cells for clinical adoptive T cell transfer with a protocol consisting of an initial stimulation with an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody (OKT3) before transduction followed by a second OKT3 stimulation 7 days after transduction. This protocol was successfully adapted for use in CLL patients with high peripheral blood leukemia cell counts by depleting CD19+ cells before the initial OKT3 stimulation. In preparation for a clinical trial that will enroll patients with advanced B cell malignancies, we generated a producer cell clone that produces retroviruses encoding the anti-CD19 CAR, and we produced sufficient retroviral supernatant for the proposed clinical trial under good manufacturing practice conditions.

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