Immunotherapy, particularly the adoptive cell transfer (ACT) of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL), is a very promising therapy for metastatic melanoma. Some patients unable to receive TIL have been successfully treated with autologous peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL), genetically modified to express HLA class I antigen restricted, melanoma antigen-reactive T-cell receptors; however, substantial numbers of patients remain ineligible due to the lack of expression of the restricting HLA class I allele. We sought to overcome this limitation by designing a non-MHC-restricted, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting the high molecular weight-melanoma associated antigen (HMW-MAA), which is highly expressed on over 90% of human melanomas but has a restricted distribution in normal tissues. HMW-MAA-specific CARs containing an antigen recognition domain based on variations of the HMW-MAA-specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) 225.28S and a T-cell activation domain based on combinations of CD28, 4-1BB, and CD3ζ activation motifs were constructed within a retroviral vector to allow stable gene transfer into cells and their progeny. Following optimization of the HMW-MAA-specific CAR for expression and function in human PBL, these gene-modified T cells secreted cytokines, were cytolytic, and proliferated in response to HMW-MAA expressing cell lines. Furthermore, the receptor functioned in both CD4+ and CD8+ cells, was non-MHC-restricted, and reacted against explanted human melanomas. To evaluate this HMW-MAA-specific CAR in patients with metastatic melanoma, we developed a clinical-grade retroviral packaging line. This may represent a novel means to treat the majority of patients with advanced melanoma, most notably those unable to receive current ACT therapies.
Keywords: high molecular weight-melanoma associated antigen, chimeric antigen receptor, melanoma, adoptive cell transfer, immunotherapy