Background: Even acknowledging the game-changing results achieved in the treatment of metastatic melanoma with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), a large proportion of patients (40–60%) still fail to respond or relapse due to the development of resistance. Alterations in the expression of Human Leukocyte Antigen class I (HLA-I) molecules are considered to play a major role in clinical resistance to ICI. Cellular immunotherapy with HLA-independent CAR-redirected lymphocytes is a promising alternative in this challenging setting and dedicated translational models are needed. Methods: In this study, we propose an HLA-independent therapeutic strategy with Cytokine Induced Killer lymphocytes (CIK) genetically engineered with a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) targeting the tumor antigen CSPG4 as effector mechanism. We investigated the preclinical antitumor activity of CSPG4-CAR.CIK in vitro and in a xenograft murine model focusing on patient-derived melanoma cell lines (Mel) with defective expression of HLA-I molecules. Results: We successfully generated CSPG4-CAR.CIK from patients with metastatic melanoma and reported their intense activity in vitro against a panel of CSPG4-expressing patient-derived Mel. The melanoma killing activity was intense, even at very low effector to target ratios, and not influenced by the expression level (high, low, defective) of HLA-I molecules on target cells. Furthermore, CAR.CIK conditioned medium was capable of upregulating the expression of HLA-I molecules on melanoma cells. A comparable immunomodulatory effect was replicated by treatment of Mel cells with exogenous IFN-γ and IFN-α. The antimelanoma activity of CSPG4-CAR.CIK was successfully confirmed in vivo, obtaining a significant tumor growth inhibition of an HLA-defective Mel xenograft in immunodeficient mice. Conclusions: In this study we reported the intense preclinical activity of CSPG4-CAR.CIK against melanoma, including those with low or defective HLA-I expression. Our findings support CSPG4 as a valuable CAR target in melanoma and provide translational rationale for clinical studies exploring CAR-CIK cellular immunotherapies within the challenging setting of patients not responsive or relapsing to immune checkpoint inhibitors.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
|Published - 22 Nov 2023
- HLA class-I