The T cell infiltrates that are formed in human cancers are a modifier of natural disease progression and also determine the probability of clinical response to cancer immunotherapies. Recent technological advances that allow the single-cell analysis of phenotypic and transcriptional states have revealed a vast heterogeneity of intratumoural T cell states, both within and between patients, and the observation of this heterogeneity makes it critical to understand the relationship between individual T cell states and therapy response. This Review covers our current knowledge of the T cell states that are present in human tumours and the role that different T cell populations have been hypothesized to play within the tumour microenvironment, with a particular focus on CD8(+) T cells. The three key models that are discussed herein are as follows: (1) the dysfunction of T cells in human cancer is associated with a change in T cell functionality rather than inactivity; (2) antigen recognition in the tumour microenvironment is an important driver of T cell dysfunctionality and the presence of dysfunctional T cells can hence be used as a proxy for the presence of a tumour-reactive T cell compartment; (3) a less dysfunctional population of tumour-reactive T cells may be required to drive a durable response to T cell immune checkpoint blockade.
CD8+ T cell states in human cancer: insights from single-cell analysis
EV-101: A Phase I Study of Single-Agent Enfortumab Vedotin in Patients With Nectin-4-Positive Solid Tumors, Including Metastatic Urothelial Carcinoma
PURPOSE: To assess the safety/tolerability and antitumor activity of enfortumab vedotin (EV), a novel investigational antibody-drug conjugate that delivers the microtubule-disrupting agent, monomethyl auristatin E, to cells that express Nectin-4. METHODS: EV-101 is a phase I dose escalation/expansion study that enrolled patients with Nectin-4-expressing solid tumors (eg, metastatic urothelial carcinoma [mUC]) who progressed on >/= 1 prior chemotherapy regimen and/or programmed death-1 receptor/programmed death ligand-1 [PD-(L)1] inhibitor, including a cohort of patients with mUC who received prior anti-PD-(L)1 therapy. Patients received escalating doses of EV up to 1.25 mg/kg on days 1, 8, and 15 of every 28-day cycle. Primary objectives were evaluation of safety/tolerability and pharmacokinetics; antitumor activity was a secondary objective. RESULTS: Enrolled patients with mUC (n = 155) were heavily pretreated, with 96% having prior platinum-based chemotherapy and 29% receiving >/= 3 lines of prior treatment. Maximum tolerated dose of EV was not established; however, the recommended phase II dose was identified as 1.25 mg/kg. Rash, peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, alopecia, and nausea were the most common treatment-related adverse events (TRAEs); the most common TRAEs were grade 1-2 in severity. Among the 112 patients with mUC treated with single-agent EV 1.25 mg/kg, the investigator-assessed confirmed objective response rate (ORR) was 43%, and duration of response was 7.4 months. Median overall survival (OS) was 12.3 months, and the OS rate at 1 year was 51.8%. Similar ORR and estimated median OS were observed in patients >/= 75 years of age with and without prior anti-PD-(L)1 treatment, liver metastases, or upper-tract disease. CONCLUSION: Single-agent EV was generally well tolerated and provided clinically meaningful and durable responses in patients with mUC; survival data are encouraging. A pivotal phase II and a confirmatory phase III study are ongoing.
"UniCAR"-modified off-the-shelf NK-92 cells for targeting of GD2-expressing tumour cells
Antigen-specific redirection of immune effector cells with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) demonstrated high therapeutic potential for targeting cancers of different origins. Beside CAR-T cells, natural killer (NK) cells represent promising alternative effectors that can be combined with CAR technology. Unlike T cells, primary NK cells and the NK cell line NK-92 can be applied as allogeneic off-the-shelf products with a reduced risk of toxicities. We previously established a modular universal CAR (UniCAR) platform which consists of UniCAR-expressing immune cells that cannot recognize target antigens directly but are redirected by a tumour-specific target module (TM). The TM contains an antigen-binding moiety fused to a peptide epitope which is recognized by the UniCAR molecule, thereby allowing an on/off switch of CAR activity, and facilitating flexible targeting of various tumour antigens depending on the presence and specificity of the TM. Here, we provide proof of concept that it is feasible to generate a universal off-the-shelf cellular therapeutic based on UniCAR NK-92 cells targeted to tumours expressing the disialoganglioside GD2 by GD2-specific TMs that are either based on an antibody-derived single-chain fragment variable (scFv) or an IgG4 backbone. Redirected UniCAR NK-92 cells induced specific killing of GD2-expressing cells in vitro and in vivo, associated with enhanced production of interferon-gamma. Analysis of radiolabelled proteins demonstrated that the IgG4-based format increased the in vivo half-life of the TM markedly in comparison to the scFv-based molecule. In summary, UniCAR NK-92 cells represent a universal off-the-shelf platform that is highly effective and flexible, allowing the use of different TM formats for specific tumour targeting.
CRISPR-engineered T cells in patients with refractory cancer
CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing provides a powerful tool to enhance the natural ability of human T cells to fight cancer. We report a first-in-human phase I clinical trial to test the safety and feasibility of multiplex CRISPR-Cas9 editing to engineer T cells in three patients with refractory cancer. Two genes encoding the endogenous T cell receptor (TCR) chains, TCRalpha (TRAC) and TCRbeta (TRBC) were deleted in T cells to reduce TCR mispairing and to enhance the expression of a synthetic, cancer-specific TCR transgene (NY-ESO-1). Removal of a third gene encoding PD-1 (PDCD1), was performed to improve anti-tumor immunity. Adoptive transfer of engineered T cells into patients resulted in durable engraftment with edits at all three genomic loci. Though chromosomal translocations were detected, the frequency decreased over time. Modified T cells persisted for up to 9 months suggesting that immunogenicity is minimal under these conditions and demonstrating the feasibility of CRISPR gene-editing for cancer immunotherapy.