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Blaeschke, Franziska; Stenger, Dana; Kaeuferle, Theresa; Willier, Semjon; Lotfi, Ramin; Kaiser, Andrew Didier; Assenmacher, Mario; Doering, Michaela; Feucht, Judith; Feuchtinger, Tobias (2018): Induction of a central memory and stem cell memory phenotype in functionally active CD4(+) and CD8(+) CAR T cells produced in an automated good manufacturing practice system for the treatment of CD19(+) acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In: Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy, Vol. 67, No. 7: pp. 1053-1066
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Relapsed/refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pre-B ALL) remains a major therapeutic challenge. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells are promising treatment options. Central memory T cells (Tcm) and stem cell-like memory T cells (Tscm) are known to promote sustained proliferation and persistence after T-cell therapy, constituting essential preconditions for treatment efficacy. Therefore, we set up a protocol for anti-CD19 CAR T-cell generation aiming at high Tcm/Tscm numbers. 100 ml peripheral blood from pediatric pre-B ALL patients was processed including CD4(+)/CD8(+)-separation, T-cell activation with modified anti-CD3/-CD28 reagents and transduction with a 4-1BB-based second generation CAR lentiviral vector. The process was performed on a closed, automated device requiring additional manual/open steps under clean room conditions. The clinical situation of these critically ill and refractory patients with leukemia leads to inconsistent cellular compositions at start of the procedure including high blast counts and low T-cell numbers with exhausted phenotype. Nevertheless, a robust T-cell product was achieved (mean CD4(+) = 50%, CD8(+) = 39%, transduction = 27%, Tcm = 50%, Tscm = 46%). Strong proliferative potential (up to > 100-fold), specific cytotoxicity and low expression of co-inhibitory molecules were documented. CAR T cells significantly released TH1 cytokines IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha and IL-2 upon target-recognition. In conclusion, partly automated GMP-generation of CAR T cells from critically small blood samples was feasible with a new stimulation protocol that leads to high functionality and expansion potential, balanced CD4/CD8 ratios and a conversion to a Tcm/Tscm phenotype.