Radiation enhances the efficacy of EGFR-targeted CAR-T cells against triple-negative breast cancer by activating NF-κB/Icam1 signaling

Mol Ther. 2022 Aug 4;S1525-0016(22)00442-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2022.07.021. Online ahead of print.


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive breast cancer subtype, with limited treatment options. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is reported to be expressed in 50%-75% of TNBC patients, making it a promising target for cancer treatment. Here we show that EGFR-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy combined with radiotherapy provides enhanced antitumor efficacy in immunocompetent and immunodeficient orthotopic TNBC mice. Intriguingly, this combination therapy resulted in a substantial increase in the number of tumor-infiltrating CAR-T cells. The efficacy of this combination was independent of tumor radiosensitivity and lymphodepleting preconditioning. Cytokine profiling showed that this combination did not increase the risk of cytokine release syndrome (CRS). RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis revealed that EGFR-targeting CAR-T therapy combined with radiotherapy increased the infiltration of CD8+ T and natural killer (NK) cells into tumors. Mechanistically, radiation significantly increased Icam1 expression on TNBC cells via activating nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) signaling, thereby promoting CAR-T cell infiltration and killing. These results suggest that CAR-T therapy combined with radiotherapy may be a promising strategy for TNBC treatment.

Keywords: CAR-T therapy; EGFR; Icam1; NF-κB; radiation; triple-negative breast cancer.