Adoptive immunotherapy using TCR-engineered PBLs against melanocyte differentiation Ags mediates objective tumor regression but is associated with on-target toxicity. To avoid toxicity to normal tissues, we targeted cancer testis Ag (CTA) MAGE-A3, which is widely expressed in a range of epithelial malignancies but is not expressed in most normal tissues. To generate high-avidity TCRs against MAGE-A3, we employed a transgenic mouse model that expresses the human HLA-A* 0201 molecule. Mice were immunized with two HLA-A*0201-restricted peptides of MAGE-A3: 112-120 (KVAELVHFL) or MAGE-A3: 271-279 (FLWGPRALV), and T cell clones were generated. MAGE-A3-specific TCR α- and β-chains were isolated and cloned into a retroviral vector. Expression of both TCRs in human PBLs demonstrated Ag-specific reactivity against a range of melanoma and nonmelanoma tumor cells. The TCR against MAGE-A3: 112-120 was selected for further development based on superior reactivity against tumor target cells. Interestingly, peptide epitopes from MAGE-A3 and MAGE-A12 (and to a lesser extent, peptides from MAGE-A2 and MAGE-A6) were recognized by PBLs engineered to express this TCR. To further improve TCR function, single amino acid variants of the CDR3 α-chain were generated. Substitution of alanine to threonine at position 118 of the α-chain in the CDR3 region of the TCR improved its functional avidity in CD4 and CD8 cells. On the basis of these results, a clinical trial is planned in which patients bearing a variety of tumor histologies will receive autologous PBLs that have been transduced with this optimized anti-MAGE-A3 TCR.
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