In a phase 1 trial, six children with relapsed/refractory B-ALL were treated with allogeneic CAR T cells engineered with CRISPR/Cas9 for CD19 CAR expression, T cell receptor α chain knockout (to avoid GvHD), and CD52 knockout (to support CAR-T viability alongside anti-CD52 lymphodepletion), from healthy donors. TCR-CD52-CAR+ T cells expanded in the blood of four patients, peaking ~7-14 days after infusion, and were no longer detectable by 28 days. These four patients experienced complete remission and received subsequent allogeneic stem cell transplant. All patients experienced cytokine release syndrome, and toxicities were manageable.
Contributed by Alex Najibi
ABSTRACT: Genome editing of allogeneic T cells can provide "off-the-shelf" alternatives to autologous chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies. Disruption of T cell receptor α chain (TRAC) to prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and removal of CD52 (cluster of differentiation 52) for a survival advantage in the presence of alemtuzumab have previously been investigated using transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN)-mediated knockout. Here, we deployed next-generation CRISPR-Cas9 editing and linked CAR expression to multiplexed DNA editing of TRAC and CD52 through incorporation of self-duplicating CRISPR guide RNA expression cassettes within the 3' long terminal repeat of a CAR19 lentiviral vector. Three cell banks of TT52CAR19 T cells were generated and cryopreserved. A phase 1, open-label, non-randomized clinical trial was conducted and treated six children with relapsed/refractory CD19-positive B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) (NCT04557436). Lymphodepletion included fludarabine, cyclophosphamide, and alemtuzumab and was followed by a single infusion of 0.8 × 106 to 2.0 × 106 CAR19 T cells per kilogram with no immediate toxicities. Four of six patients infused with TT52CAR19 T cells exhibited cell expansion, achieved flow cytometric remission, and then proceeded to receive allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Two patients required biological intervention for grade II cytokine release syndrome, one patient developed transient grade IV neurotoxicity, and one patient developed skin GVHD, which resolved after transplant conditioning. Other complications were within expectations, and primary safety objectives were met. This study provides a demonstration of the feasibility, safety, and therapeutic potential of CRISPR-engineered immunotherapy.