Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) using patient-derived tumor-specific T cells is a promising approach for cancer treatment especially for the treatment of hematological malignancies. However, therapeutic approaches using ACT in patients with solid tumors, such as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), has not shown substantially improved clinical outcomes in particular due to immunosuppressive tumor microenvironments. Therefore, strategies to enhance ACT T cell functionality in vivo and to overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironments in solid tumors are strongly needed. We developed a strategy combining nanomedicine with ACT, based on the chemical conjugation of cytokine-loaded nanoparticles (NPs) as synthetic “backpacks” to the surfaces of live lymphocytes for adoptive therapy. Novel protein nanoparticles were synthesized by crosslinking of single chain IL-12 (scIL-12)- or IL-15 superagonist through disulfide-containing crosslinkers, forming nanogels that when bound to the surface of T cells, release the supporting cytokines in response to antigen receptor signaling-mediated changes in cell surface redox state. This TCR-mediated drug release allowed drug delivery to the T cells to be focused in tumors and tumor-draining lymph nodes. Coupling of cytokine nanogels to T cell membranes induced significant cell activation in terms of interferon-γ production or proliferation in a concentration-dependent manner. Antigen-specific CD8+ T cells “backpacked” with scIL-12 or IL-15SA nanogels were capable of substantial tumor cell killing in a B16F10 melanoma cancer model in vivo, while avoiding lethal systemic toxicities triggered by systemically-administered immunomodulatory cytokines. Ongoing studies are seeking to apply this approach in HCC, and this approach bears the potential for the development of successful immunotherapeutic strategies against this and other solid tumors where effective treatment options are still lacking.

Citation Format: Michael Fichter. T cell receptor signaling-responsive single chain IL-12 and IL-15 superagonist nanogel “backpacks” to enhance adoptive cell therapy in solid tumors [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 3565.