Breast cancer and its microenvironment can directly subvert cytotoxic T cell immune responses. Thus, previous efforts to induce cell-mediated anti-tumor responses in vivo by vaccination have had limited success. We propose instead to adoptively transfer T cells that are engineered ex vivo to target the tumor and the tumor environment, and are armed with countermeasures to a potent tumor immune evasion strategy. In this application we propose to: 1) generate bi-specific T cells that simultaneously target two tumor-associated antigens, Her2 and Muc1, through native and chimeric receptors, thereby minimizing the impact of antigen and MHC modulation as a means of evading T cell recognition. 2) Next, we will assess the safety and function of these adoptively-transferred binary T cells in patients with refractory breast cancer. 3) Finally, to protect these ex vivo generated bi-specific T cells from the hostile tumor microenvironment, we have developed a novel chimeric cytokine receptor (4/7R). Transgenic expression of this chimeric 4/7R molecule allows the engineered T cells to utilize the suppressive Th2 cytokine IL4, produced at the tumor site, to instead promote the T cells'expansion, persistence, and cytotoxic activity in vivo. The safety and anti-tumor activity of these tumor-resistant T cells will be tested clinically in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Our approach has a potentially outstanding pharmaco-economic profile since the clinical the benefits of T cell therapy can be sustained long-term, and should be associated with minimal toxicities. The Center for Cell and Gene Therapy (CAGT), and the Breast Cancer Center at Texas Medical Center are uniquely positioned to translate to the clinic the proposed studies given the knowledge, experience, and specialized infrastructure possessed by these centers.
We are proposing to develop a personalized treatment by modifying the patient's own immune system to fight the cancer. We will engineer T lymphocytes to recognize two different targets expressed on the cancer cells, making it much harder for the cancer cell to escape recognition. These double-killer T cells will then be equipped with a counter measure to protect them from molecules secreted by cancer cells, generating in this way a safe and clinically effective therapy for advanced breast cancer.