Off-tumor targeting of human antigens is difficult to predict in preclinical animal studies and can lead to serious adverse effects in patients. To address this, we developed a mouse model with stable and tunable human Her2 (hHer2) expression on normal hepatic tissue and compared toxicity between affinity-tuned Her2 chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CARTs). In mice with hHer2-high livers, both the high-affinity (HA) and low-affinity (LA) CARTs caused lethal liver damage due to immunotoxicity. In mice with hHer2-low livers, LA-CARTs exhibited less liver damage and lower systemic levels of IFN-γ than HA-CARTs. We then compared affinity-tuned CARTs for their ability to control a hHer2-positive tumor xenograft in our model. Surprisingly, the LA-CARTs outperformed the HA-CARTs with superior antitumor efficacy in vivo. We hypothesized that this was due, in part, to T cell trafficking differences between LA and HA-CARTs and found that the LA-CARTs migrated out of the liver and infiltrated the tumor sooner than the HA-CARTs. These findings highlight the importance of T cell targeting in reducing toxicity of normal tissue and also in preventing off-tumor sequestration of CARTs, which reduces their therapeutic potency. Our model may be useful to evaluate various CARTs that have conditional expression of more than 1 single-chain variable fragment (scFv).
Keywords: Cancer immunotherapy; Immunology; Therapeutics.