This study compared second-generation chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) encoding signaling domains composed of CD28, ICOS, and 4-1BB (TNFRSF9). Here, we report that certain CARs endow T cells with the ability to undergo long-term autonomous proliferation. Transduction of primary human T cells with lentiviral vectors encoding some of the CARs resulted in sustained proliferation for up to 3 months following a single stimulation through the T-cell receptor (TCR). Sustained numeric expansion was independent of cognate antigen and did not require the addition of exogenous cytokines or feeder cells after a single stimulation of the TCR and CD28. Results from gene array and functional assays linked sustained cytokine secretion and expression of T-bet (TBX21), EOMES, and GATA-3 to the effect. Sustained expression of the endogenous IL2 locus has not been reported in primary T cells. Sustained proliferation was dependent on CAR structure and high expression, the latter of which was necessary but not sufficient. The mechanism involves constitutive signaling through NF-κB, AKT, ERK, and NFAT. The propagated CAR T cells retained a diverse TCR repertoire, and cellular transformation was not observed. The CARs with a constitutive growth phenotype displayed inferior antitumor effects and engraftment in vivo. Therefore, the design of CARs that have a nonconstitutive growth phenotype may be a strategy to improve efficacy and engraftment of CAR T cells. The identification of CARs that confer constitutive or nonconstitutive growth patterns may explain observations that CAR T cells have differential survival patterns in clinical trials. Cancer Immunol Res; 3(4); 1–12. ©2015 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Immunology Research Online (http://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received October 1, 2014.
- Revision received December 23, 2014.
- Accepted December 26, 2014.
- ©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.