Gene-edited stem cells enable CD33-directed immune therapy for myeloid malignancies

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Jun 11;116(24):11978-11987. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1819992116. Epub 2019 May 28.


Antigen-directed immunotherapies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), such as chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-Ts) or antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), are associated with severe toxicities due to the lack of unique targetable antigens that can distinguish leukemic cells from normal myeloid cells or myeloid progenitors. Here, we present an approach to treat AML by targeting the lineage-specific myeloid antigen CD33. Our approach combines CD33-targeted CAR-T cells, or the ADC Gemtuzumab Ozogamicin with the transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells that have been engineered to ablate CD33 expression using genomic engineering methods. We show highly efficient genetic ablation of CD33 antigen using CRISPR/Cas9 technology in human stem/progenitor cells (HSPC) and provide evidence that the deletion of CD33 in HSPC doesn't impair their ability to engraft and to repopulate a functional multilineage hematopoietic system in vivo. Whole-genome sequencing and RNA sequencing analysis revealed no detectable off-target mutagenesis and no loss of functional p53 pathways. Using a human AML cell line (HL-60), we modeled a postremission marrow with minimal residual disease and showed that the transplantation of CD33-ablated HSPCs with CD33-targeted immunotherapy leads to leukemia clearance, without myelosuppression, as demonstrated by the engraftment and recovery of multilineage descendants of CD33-ablated HSPCs. Our study thus contributes to the advancement of targeted immunotherapy and could be replicated in other malignancies.

Keywords: CD33; CRISPR/Cas9; acute myeloid leukemia; chimeric antigen receptor; transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural