Clinical-grade T cells rendered specific for CD19 have demonstrated anti-tumor activity. We are now proposing a translational study to investigate the temporal-spatial biodistribution and microenvironment associated with adoptively transferred CD19-specific T cells as achieved using positron emission tomography (PET). To target aggressive B-cell malignancies, we have initiated two clinical trials to infuse autologous and allogeneic T cells that have been genetically modified to express a CD19-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) which recognizes CD19 on the cell surface, independent of MHC. This new R01 grant application establishes an inter-disciplinary (chemistry, imaging, biostatistics, bioinformatics, nuclear medicine, gene therapy, and immunology) and multi-institution (MDACC and TMH) team, partnering with industry (CellSight Technologies, Inc.) to investigate a platform for imaging infused CAR+ T cells by PET. This will be accomplished by coexpressing a mutant of herpes simplex virus-1 thymidine kinase (sr39tk) with the CD19-specific CAR in T cells using the Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon/transposase system which we have adapted for clinical translation. We will synchronously electro-transfer two DNA plasmids expressing the SB transposons (i) CAR and (ii) sr39tk, using a new method we dub ?double transposition?.
Aim #1 seeks to determine if non-viral gene transfer will produce T cells that co-express CD19-specific CAR and sr39tk under control of constitutive and conditional promoters. The sr39tk reporter gene will be fused to hygromycin phosphotransferase (Hy) and thus CAR+sr39tk+ T cells will be selectively propagated in presence of cytocidal concentration of hygromycin B on γ- irradiated artificial antigen presenting cells that co-express CD19 along with desired T-cell co-stimulatory molecules.
Aim #2 seeks to undertake longitudinal μPET imaging of infused human CAR+sr39tk+ T cells with the reporter probe [18F]FHBG in immunocompromised mice to assess biodistribution and sensitivity of detection. T-cell activation status will be imaged by comparing (i) conditional expression of sr39tk under control of NFAT promoter with (ii) the new PET probe [18F]F-AraG developed at CellSight. T-cell hypoxia will be assessed by introducing a molecular sensor for oxygen to test whether sr39tk can report low oxygen tension.
Aim #3 seeks to translate these pre-clinical data to a new clinical study infusing CAR+sr39tk+ T cells in patients undergoing gene therapy with CD19-specific T cells. This trial will be a companion study to our existing trial (IND# 14193) infusing CAR+ T cells after autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation for research participants with advanced B-lymphoid malignancies. The PET probe [18F]FHBG, marketed by CellSight Technologies, will be manufactured for clinical imaging at TMH, per IND #61880. In aggregate, these studies will test the central hypothesis that CD19-specific CAR+sr39tk+ T cells can be imaged in humans using PET. These studies will establish principles and practices for translating PET-based imaging of CAR+ T cells and provide the first human imaging data on the biodistribution of genetically modified T cells.
Genetically modified T cells are being infused as investigational targeted treatment for lymphomas. Here, we seek to build on our gene therapy to enable infused T cells to be imaged using positron emission tomography.
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