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Novel Bioluminescent Bioassays for the Discovery and Development of Molecular and Cellular T-Cell Redirecting Cancer Therapy

Gilden, J. et al., Promega Corporation


AACR 2020 Abstract #2179

Redirected T cell therapies represent a new paradigm for cancer treatment. Two main approaches for T-cell-based therapies involve molecular T cell redirection by CD3 bispecific molecules such as bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTE) and cellular T cell redirection by genetic modification of T cells with chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) or transgenic T cell receptors (TCR).

BiTEs redirect the cytotoxic activity of endogenous polyclonal T cells by simultaneously engaging CD3 on T cells and tumor antigens on target cells. Hitherto, BiTE potency studies have relied on primary cells, which measure target cell killing through redirected T cell cytotoxicity (RTCC) or cytokine release. However, these primary cell-based assays suffer from high donor-to-donor variability, as well as lengthy and hard to implement protocols. We have recently developed a new RTCC assay and cytokine immunoassays that are simple, sensitive and can quantitatively measure the potency of BiTEs and similar biologics. In this assay, preactivated, Thaw-and-Use cytotoxic T cells and target cells stably expressing HaloTag-HiBiT are co-incubated with a BiTE, which results in lysis of the target cells and release of HiBiT proteins. These HiBiT proteins then bind to LgBiT in the detection reagent and form functional NanoLuc Luciferase to generate luminescence. The assay is homogenous, highly sensitive, and has a robust assay window. Furthermore, BiTE-induced cytokine production (e.g IL-2 and IFN-γ) from the activated cytotoxic T cells can be quantitatively measured in the homogenous NanoBiT Immunoassays.

Use of CAR-T has demonstrated promising results in treating leukemia, while the development of TCR-engineered T cells that can recognize intracellular tumor antigens, is still in early stages. To facilitate the screening and characterization of new transgenic TCRs, we used CRISPR/Cas9 to develop two TCRαβ-null reporter T cell lines, which are CD4+ or CD8+. Reintroduction of peptide-specific TCR α and β chains into TCRαβ-null reporter T cell lines results in peptide-dependent TCR activation and luciferase reporter expression. The select expression of CD4 or CD8 in the TCRαβ-null reporter T cell lines can enable the development of transgenic TCRs for both MHCI- and MHCII-restricted tumor antigen targets. Together, these bioluminescent bioassays represent a new set of tools for the discovery and development of T cell-based immunotherapies.

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