Timpanaro A., Piccand C., Dzhumashev D., Anton-Joseph S., Robbi A., Moser J., Rössler J., Bernasconi M. (2023)
CAR T cells recognizing CD276 and Dual-CAR T cells against CD276/FGFR4 promote rhabdomyosarcoma clearance in orthotopic mouse models, bioRxiv 2023.09.05.555125
Background Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma in childhood, whose prognosis is still poor especially for metastatic, high-grade, and relapsed RMS. New treatments are urgently needed, especially systemic therapies. Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells (CAR Ts) are very effective against hematological malignancies, but their efficacy against solid tumors needs to be improved. CD276 is a target upregulated in RMS and detected at low levels in normal tissues. FGFR4 is a very specific target for RMS. Here, we optimized CAR Ts for these two targets, alone or in combination, and tested their anti-tumor activity in vitro and in vivo.
Methods Four different single-domain antibodies were used to select the most specific FGFR4-CAR construct. RMS cell killing and cytokine production by CD276- and FGFR4-CAR Ts expressing CD8α or CD28 HD/TM domains in combination with 4-1BB and/or CD28 co-stimulatory domains were tested in vitro. The most effective CD276- and FGFR4-CAR Ts were used to generate Dual-CAR Ts. Tumor killing was evaluated in vivo in three orthotopic RMS mouse models.
Results CD276.V-CAR Ts (276.MG.CD28HD/TM.CD28CSD.3z) showed the strongest killing of RMS cells, and the highest release of IFN-γ and Granzyme B in vitro. FGFR4.V-CAR Ts (F8-FR4.CD28HD/TM.CD28CSD.3z) showed the most specific killing. CD276-CAR Ts successfully eradicated RD- and Rh4-derived RMS tumors in vivo, achieving complete remission in 3/5 and 5/5 mice, respectively. In CD276low JR-tumors, however, they achieved complete remission in only 1/5 mice. FGFR4 CAR Ts instead delayed of Rh4 tumor growth. Dual-CAR Ts promoted Rh4-tumors clearance in 5/5 mice.
Conclusions CD276- and CD276/FGFR4-directed CAR Ts showed effective RMS cell killing in vitro and eradication of CD276high RMS tumors in vivo. CD276low tumors escaped the therapy showing a correlation of antigen density and effectiveness. FGFR4-CAR Ts showed specific killing in vitro but could only delay RMS growth in vivo. Our results show that combined expression of CD276-CAR with other CAR does not reduce its benefit. Introducing immunotherapy with CD276-CAR Ts in RMS seems to be feasible and promising, although CAR constructs design and target combinations have to be further improved to eradicate tumors with low target expression.
Competing Interest Statement
JR is currently an employee of Novartis Pharma, Basel. The other authors declare that they have no competing interests.