Background Glioblastoma (GBM) is a deadly brain malignancy with a dismal prognosis. While immunotherapy holds great promise for GBM treatment, most have failed due to a suppressive tumor microenvironment (TME). Antigen heterogeneity and adenosine signaling are two immunosuppressive mechanisms in GBM. The CD73-adenosine axis plays a multifaceted role in GBM pathogenesis and drives the dysfunction of NK cells in GBM TME.1,3 Our NKG2D-chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-natural killer (NK) cells have shown anti-tumor activity when combined with CD73 blockade in vivo.2 To further extend the potency of these cells against GBM and address antigen heterogeneity in GBM, we combined the local blockade of CD73 with multi-antigen-targeting engineered NK cells. In order to improve treatment assessment, PET/MR imaging was employed to enable detailed, non-invasive assessment of tumor progression. Imaging assessment of adoptively-transferred CAR- NK cells was also developed to determine the fate of NK cell delivery to the tumor site over time.
Methods We generated multifunctional engineered NK (E-NK) cells that express an anti-CD73 scFv, which is cleavable by GBM-associated proteases, an NKG2D-CAR, as well as a GD2 CAR, which can actively target the GD2 antigen overexpressed on GBM (Figure 1A). For E-NK cell radiolabeling, zirconium-89 (89Zr, ½ life = 78 Hr) radiotracer was attached covalently to the E-NK cell surface via conjugation with DFO-Bz-NCS in a range of doses from 50–600 µCi.
Results An optimal balance between labeling efficiency and cell viability was attained at 120 µCi 89Zr resulting in 39% labeling efficiency and 46% cell viability over for 48 hours. After labeling, the NK cells maintained their in vitro killing activity against GBM cells (figure 1B). The 89Zr labeled E-NK cells were administered intravenously in mice containing intracranial GBM10 tumors at week 5 post-implant. PET imaging was performed at 1 and 2 days later and gamma imaging ex vivo at 4 days. Free 89Zr was visible diffusely throughout the body with low levels in the brain. The majority of 89Zr labeled E-NK cell groups localized to the lungs with detectable activity elsewhere in various organs (figure 1C and 1D).
Conclusions We generated multifunctional E-NK cells which showed the improved killing of GBM cells using novel targeting approaches, including the blockade of CD73-mediated adenosinergic signaling. We also optimized E-NK cell radiolabeling with 89Zr for GB10 therapy in vitro and in vivo fate mapping against a xenograft of patient-derived GBM.
Acknowledgements We gratefully acknowledge the Walther Oncology Embedding Program, Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, and In Vivo Therapeutics Core.
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