Genetically modified T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) so far have mostly failed in the treatment of solid tumors owing to a number of limitations, including an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment and insufficient CAR T cell activation and persistence. Next-generation approaches using CAR T cells that secrete transgenic immunomodulatory cytokines upon CAR signaling, known as TRUCKs ("T cells redirected for universal cytokine-mediated killing"), are currently being explored. As TRUCKs were engineered by the transduction of T cells with two separate vectors, we developed a lentiviral modular "all-in-one" vector system that combines constitutive CAR expression and inducible nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT)-driven transgene expression for more efficient production of TRUCKs. Activation of the GD2-specific CAR via GD2+ target cells induced NFAT promoter-driven cytokine release in primary human T cells, and indicated a tight linkage of CAR-specific activation and transgene expression that was further improved by a modified NFATsyn promoter. As proof-of-concept, we showed that T cells containing the "all-in-one" vector system secrete the immunomodulatory cytokines interleukin (IL)12 or IL18 upon co-cultivation with primary human GD2+ tumor cells, resulting in enhanced effector cell properties and increased monocyte recruitment. This highlights the potential of our system to simplify application of TRUCK-modified T cells in solid tumor therapy.
Keywords: GD2CAR; IL12; IL18; NFAT; TRUCK; glioblastoma; inducible cytokines; “all-in-one” lentiviral vector.