Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy has had limited efficacy for solid tumors, largely due to a lack of selectively and highly expressed surface antigens. To avoid reliance on a tumor's endogenous antigens, here we describe a method of tumor-selective delivery of surface antigens using an oncolytic virus to enable a generalizable CAR T cell therapy. Using CD19 as our proof of concept, we engineered a thymidine kinase-disrupted vaccinia virus to selectively deliver CD19 to malignant cells, and thus demonstrated potentiation of CD19 CAR T cell activity against two tumor types in vitro. In an immunocompetent model of B16 melanoma, this combination markedly delayed tumor growth and improved median survival compared with antigen-mismatched combinations. We also found that CD19 delivery could improve CAR T cell activity against tumor cells that express low levels of cognate antigen, suggesting a potential application in counteracting antigen-low escape. This approach highlights the potential of engineering tumors for effective adoptive cell therapy.
Keywords: CAR T cells; cell therapy; chimeric antigen receptor; combination immunotherapy; immunotherapy; oncolytic virus; solid tumor; synthetic immunology; tumor engineering; vaccinia virus.
© 2020 The Author(s).