Programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1)-mediated immunosuppression has been proposed to contribute to the limited clinical efficacy of chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells in solid tumors. We generated PD-1 and T cell receptor (TCR) deficient mesothelin-specific CAR-T (MPTK-CAR-T) cells using CRISPR-Cas9 technology and evaluated them in a dose-escalation study. A total of 15 patients received one or more infusions of MPTK-CAR-T cells without prior lymphodepletion. No dose-limiting toxicity or unexpected adverse events were observed in any of the 15 patients. The best overall response was stable disease (2/15 patients). Circulating MPTK-CAR-T cells peaked at days 7-14 and became undetectable beyond 1 month. TCR-positive CAR-T cells rather than TCR-negative CAR-T cells were predominantly detected in effusion or peripheral blood from three patients after infusion. We further confirmed the reduced persistence of TCR-deficient CAR-T cells in animal models. Our results establish the preliminary feasibility and safety of CRISPR-engineered CAR-T cells with PD-1 disruption and suggest that the natural TCR plays an important role in the persistence of CAR-T cells when treating solid tumors.
Keywords: CAR-T; CRISPR-Cas9; Mesothelin; PD-1; TCR.
© 2021. The Author(s).