Background Gliomas represent the most common brain tumors within the central nervous system, with glioblastoma being the most aggressive type.1 Conventional treatment combines several approaches including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.2 However, the prognosis for glioblastoma remains unfavorable, with only 5% of patients surviving more than 5 years post-diagnosis.3 Thus, new treatment approaches are urgently needed. Natural killer (NK) cells directly lyse malignantly transformed or virally infected cells and secrete inflammatory cytokines that polarize cytotoxic immunity. Allogeneic NK cell adoptive transfer has shown clinical benefit in patients with advanced cancer.4–7 However, limitations of this approach include relatively low numbers of donor NK cells that can be isolated during an apheresis and variability in the quality of NK cells between donors. To overcome these limitations, we have developed a GMP manufacturing strategy to mass produce NK cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as an approach to off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy. We refer to these cells as ‘iNK’ (iPSC-derived NK) cells. Here, we provide preclinical data demonstrating the efficacy of iNK cells for immunotherapy against glioblastoma.
Methods We generated iNK cells using previously published methods.8–10 iNK cells were used as effectors against an array of patient-derived glioblastoma lines in 2-dimensional live imaging IncuCyte assays where iNK cell-mediated killing was observed over the course of 48 hours. To investigate iNK cell infiltration and cytotoxicity in a more physiological context that accounts for the 3-dimensional architecture of the tumor, we also performed live imaging IncuCyte assays using iNK cells as effectors against glioblastoma spheroids. To test the anti-tumor function of iNK cells in vivo, we implanted patient-derived glioblastoma cells into mice via intracranial injection. Seven days later, 5 mice received intratumoral injections of iNK cells, and 5 mice received vehicle alone (as a control; figure 1A). All mice were monitored for weight and survival over 100 days.
Results iNK cells exhibited strong and sustained cytotoxicity against 6 primary patient-derived mesenchymal glioblastoma lines in 2-dimensional IncuCyte assays and complete infiltration and destruction of glioblastoma spheroids in 3-dimensional IncuCyte assays. In xenogeneic adoptive transfer experiments, all mice receiving intratumoral injections of iNK cells survived out to day 100, while all mice in the vehicle group became moribund and had to be sacrificed by day 60 (figure 1B).
Conclusions iNK cells are highly cytotoxic against glioblastoma cells, and our preclinical in vivo data provides proof-of-concept for future clinical trials.
Ethics Approval This project has been approved by the University of Minnesota IACUC. Approval ID: 1812-36595A
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