Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T cell) therapy directed at CD19 produces durable remissions in the treatment of relapsed/refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Nonetheless, many patients receiving CD19 CAR-T cells fail to respond for unknown reasons. To reveal changes in 4-1BB–based CD19 CAR-T cells and identify biomarkers of response, we used single-cell RNA sequencing and protein surface marker profiling of patient CAR-T cells pre- and postinfusion into patients with NHL. At the transcriptional and protein levels, we note the evolution of CAR-T cells toward a nonproliferative, highly differentiated, and exhausted state, with an enriched exhaustion profile in CAR-T cells of patients with poor response marked by TIGIT expression. Utilizing in vitro and in vivo studies, we demonstrate that TIGIT blockade alone improves the antitumor function of CAR-T cells. Altogether, we provide evidence of CAR-T cell dysfunction marked by TIGIT expression driving a poor response in patients with NHL.
This is the first study investigating the mechanisms linked to CAR-T patient responses based on the sequential analysis of manufactured and infused CAR-T cells using single-cell RNA and protein expression data. Furthermore, our findings are the first to demonstrate an improvement of CAR-T cell efficacy with TIGIT inhibition alone.
This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1825