Extracellular NGFR spacers allow efficient tracking and enrichment of fully functional car-t cells co-expressing a suicide gene

M Casucci, L Falcone, B Camisa, M Norelli, S Porcellini, A Stornaiuolo, F Ciceri, C Traversari, C Bordignon, C Bonini, A Bondanza

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Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell immunotherapy is at the forefront of innovative cancer therapeutics. However, lack of standardization of cellular products within the same clinical trial and lack of harmonization between different trials have hindered the clear identification of efficacy and safety determinants that should be unveiled in order to advance the field. With the aim of facilitating the isolation and in vivo tracking of CAR-T cells, we here propose the inclusion within the CAR molecule of a novel extracellular spacer based on the low-affinity nerve-growth-factor receptor (NGFR). We screened four different spacer designs using as target antigen the CD44 isoform variant 6 (CD44v6). We successfully generated NGFR-spaced CD44v6 CAR-T cells that could be efficiently enriched with clinical-grade immuno-magnetic beads without negative consequences on subsequent expansion, immuno-phenotype, in vitro antitumor reactivity, and conditional ablation when co-expressing a suicide gene. Most importantly, these cells could be tracked with anti-NGFR monoclonal antibodies in NSG mice, where they expanded, persisted, and exerted potent antitumor effects against both high leukemia and myeloma burdens. Similar results were obtained with NGFR-enriched CAR-T cells specific for CD19 or CEA, suggesting the universality of this strategy. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that the incorporation of the NGFR marker gene within the CAR sequence allows for a single molecule to simultaneously work as a therapeutic and selection/tracking gene. Looking ahead, NGFR spacer enrichment might allow good manufacturing procedures-manufacturing of standardized CAR-T cell products with high therapeutic potential, which could be harmonized in different clinical trials and used in combination with a suicide gene for future application in the allogeneic setting. © 2018 Casucci, Falcone, Camisa, Norelli, Porcellini, Stornaiuolo, Ciceri, Traversari, Bordignon, Bonini and Bondanza. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
Original languageEnglish
Article number507
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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