Adoptive transfer of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells has demonstrated unparalleled responses in hematologic cancers, yet antigen escape and tumor relapse occur frequently. CAR T-cell therapy for patients with solid tumors faces even greater challenges due to the immunosuppressive tumor environment and antigen heterogeneity. Here, we developed a bispecific CAR to simultaneously target epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) to overcome antigen escape and to improve the durability of tumor responses. ICAM-1 is an adhesion molecule inducible by inflammatory cytokines and elevated in many types of tumors. Our study demonstrates superior efficacy of bispecific CAR T cells compared with CAR T cells targeting a single primary antigen. Bispecific CAR T achieved more durable antitumor responses in tumor models with either homogenous or heterogenous expression of EpCAM. We also showed that the activation of CAR T cells against EpCAM in tumors led to upregulation of ICAM-1, which rendered tumors more susceptible to ICAM-1 targeting by bispecific CAR T cells. Our strategy of additional targeting of ICAM-1 may have broad applications in augmenting the activity of CAR T cells against primary tumor antigens that are prone to antigen loss or downregulation.

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