Background Autologous chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have been shown to be efficacious for the treatment of B cell malignancies; however, widespread adoption and application of CAR T cell products still face a number of challenges. To overcome these challenges, Adicet Bio is developing an allogeneic γδ T cell-based CAR T cell platform, which capitalizes on the intrinsic abilities of Vδ1 γδ T cells to recognize and kill transformed cells in an MHC-unrestricted manner, to migrate to epithelial tissues, and to function in hypoxic conditions. To gain a better understanding of the requirements for optimal intratumoral CAR Vδ1 γδ T cell activation, proliferation, and differentiation, we developed a three-dimensional (3D) tumor spheroid assay, in which tumor cells acquire the structural organization of a solid tumor and establish a microenvironment that has oxygen and nutrient gradients. Moreover, through the addition of cytokines and/or tumor stromal cell types, the spheroid microenvironment can be modified to reflect hot or cold tumors. Here, we report on the use of a 3D CD20+ Raji lymphoma spheroid assay to evaluate the effects of IL-2 and IL-15, positive regulators of T cell homeostasis and differentiation, on the proliferative and antitumor capacities of CD20 CAR Vδ1 γδ T cells.
Methods Molecular, phenotypic, and functional profiling were performed to characterize the in vitro dynamics of the intraspheroid CD20 CAR Vδ1 γδ T cell response to target antigen in the presence of IL-2, IL-15, or no added cytokine.
Results When compared to no added cytokine, the addition of IL-2 or IL-15 enhanced CD20 CAR Vδ1 γδ T cell activation, proliferation, survival, and cytokine production in a dose-dependent manner but were only able to alter the kinetics of Raji cell killing at low effector to target ratios. Notably, differential gene expression analysis using NanoString nCounter® Technology confirmed the positive effects of IL-2 or IL-15 on CAR-activated Vδ1 γδ T cells as evidenced by the upregulation of genes involved in activation, cell cycle, mitochondrial biogenesis, cytotoxicity, and cytokine production.
Conclusions Together, these results not only show that the addition of IL-2 or IL-15 can potentiate CD20 CAR Vδ1 γδ T cell activation, proliferation, survival, and differentiation into antitumor effectors but also highlight the utility of the 3D spheroid assay as a high throughput in vitro method for assessing and predicting CAR Vδ1 γδ T cell activation, proliferation, survival, and differentiation in hot and cold tumors.
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