TSTEM-like CAR-T cells exhibit improved persistence and tumor control compared with conventional CAR-T cells in preclinical models

Sci Transl Med. 2023 Apr 5;15(690):eabk1900. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abk1900. Epub 2023 Apr 5.


Patients who receive chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells that are enriched in memory T cells exhibit better disease control as a result of increased expansion and persistence of the CAR-T cells. Human memory T cells include stem-like CD8+ memory T cell progenitors that can become either functional stem-like T (TSTEM) cells or dysfunctional T progenitor exhausted (TPEX) cells. To that end, we demonstrated that TSTEM cells were less abundant in infused CAR-T cell products in a phase 1 clinical trial testing Lewis Y-CAR-T cells (NCT03851146), and the infused CAR-T cells displayed poor persistence in patients. To address this issue, we developed a production protocol to generate TSTEM-like CAR-T cells enriched for expression of genes in cell replication pathways. Compared with conventional CAR-T cells, TSTEM-like CAR-T cells had enhanced proliferative capacity and increased cytokine secretion after CAR stimulation, including after chronic CAR stimulation in vitro. These responses were dependent on the presence of CD4+ T cells during TSTEM-like CAR-T cell production. Adoptive transfer of TSTEM-like CAR-T cells induced better control of established tumors and resistance to tumor rechallenge in preclinical models. These more favorable outcomes were associated with increased persistence of TSTEM-like CAR-T cells and an increased memory T cell pool. Last, TSTEM-like CAR-T cells and anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) treatment eradicated established tumors, and this was associated with increased tumor-infiltrating CD8+CAR+ T cells producing interferon-γ. In conclusion, our CAR-T cell protocol generated TSTEM-like CAR-T cells with enhanced therapeutic efficacy, resulting in increased proliferative capacity and persistence in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive* / methods
  • Neoplasms*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03851146