Adoptive cell therapies have shown great promise in hematological malignancies. To realize the potential of T cell therapies in solid tumors, we have developed T cell receptor fusion construct (TRuC®) T cells, which are equipped with an engineered T cell receptor that utilizes all TCR signaling subunits and recognizes tumor-associated antigens independent of HLA. In clinical trials, mesothelin-targeting TRuC-T cells (aka TC-210 or gavo-cel) have shown unprecedented results in patients suffering from advanced mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. To potentially increase the effector function and persistence of TRuC-T cells in the hostile tumor microenvironment, we generated TC-210 T cells that express a membrane-tethered IL15Rα-IL15 fusion protein. IL-15 is a common γ chain cytokine that promotes the differentiation, maintenance, and effector function of memory CD8+ T cell subsets and confers resistance to IL-2-mediated activation induced cell death (AICD). In vitro, the co-expression of the IL-15 fusion protein enhances T cell proliferation and persistence upon repeated stimulation with MSLN+ cancer cell lines, while exhaustion marker expression is decreased. Furthermore, IL-15 enhanced TC-210 T cells sustain a significantly higher TCF-1+ population. When tested in a mesothelioma xenograft mouse model, the presence of the IL-15 fusion protein increased tumor infiltration and persistence of TC-210 T cells. Altogether, the presented data support clinical studies that explore the impact of IL-15 enhancement on the persistence of TC-210 T cells and depth of response in patients with MSLN+ malignancies.
Citation Format: Michelle Fleury, Courtney Anderson, Amy Watt, Holly Horton, Adam Zieba, Jian Ding, Robert Tighe, Robert Hofmeister, Derrick McCarthy, Dario Gutierrez. Expression of an IL-15 receptor fusion protein enhances the persistence of TRuC-T cells [abstract]. In: Abstracts: AACR Virtual Special Conference: Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy; 2021 Oct 5-6. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2022;10(1 Suppl):Abstract nr P032.