T cell receptor (TCR)-engineered T cell therapy is a promising cancer treatment approach. Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) is overexpressed in the majority of tumors and a potential target for adoptive cell therapy. We isolated a novel hTERT-specific TCR sequence, named Radium-4, from a clinically responding pancreatic cancer patient vaccinated with a long hTERT peptide. Radium-4 TCR-redirected primary CD4+ and CD8+ T cells demonstrated in vitro efficacy, producing inflammatory cytokines and killing hTERT+ melanoma cells in both 2D and 3D settings, as well as malignant, patient-derived ascites cells. Importantly, T cells expressing Radium-4 TCR displayed no toxicity against bone marrow stem cells or mature hematopoietic cells. Notably, Radium-4 TCR+ T cells also significantly reduced tumor growth and improved survival in a xenograft mouse model. Since hTERT is a universal cancer antigen, and the very frequently expressed HLA class II molecules presenting the hTERT peptide to this TCR provide a very high (>75%) population coverage, this TCR represents an attractive candidate for immunotherapy of solid tumors.
CAR T cells targeting the B-lymphocyte antigen CD19 have led to remarkable clinical results in B-cell leukemia and lymphoma, but eliminate all B-lineage cells, leading to increased susceptibility to severe infections. As malignant B cells will express either immunoglobulin (Ig) light chain κ or λ, we designed a second-generation CAR targeting Igκ, IGK CAR. This construct demonstrated high target specificity, but displayed reduced efficacy in the presence of serum IgG. Since CD19 CAR is insensitive to serum IgG, we designed various combinatorial CAR constructs in order to maintain the CD19 CAR T cell efficacy, but with IGK CAR target selectivity. The Kz-19BB design, combining CD19 CAR containing a 4-1BB co-stimulatory domain with an IGK CAR containing a CD3zeta stimulatory domain, maintained the target specificity of IgK CAR and was resistant to the presence of soluble IgG. Our results demonstrate that a combinatorial CAR approach can improve target selectivity and efficacy.