Research Papers:

Rigorous optimization and validation of potent RNA CAR T cell therapy for the treatment of common epithelial cancers expressing folate receptor

Keith Schutsky _, De-Gang Song, Rachel Lynn, Jenessa B. Smith, Mathilde Poussin, Mariangela Figini, Yangbing Zhao and Daniel J. Powell Jr.

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:28911-28928. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5029

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Keith Schutsky1, De-Gang Song1, Rachel Lynn1, Jenessa B. Smith1, Mathilde Poussin1, Mariangela Figini2, Yangbing Zhao1, Daniel J. Powell Jr.1,3

1Ovarian Cancer Research Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, PA 19104, Philadelphia

2Department of Experimental Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, 20133, Milan, Italy

3Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, PA 19104, Philadelphia

Correspondence to:

Daniel J. Powell, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: folate receptor alpha, chimeric antigen receptor, adoptive immunotherapy, ovarian cancer, T cells

Received: May 12, 2015     Accepted: August 20, 2015     Published: September 02, 2015


Using lentiviral technology, we recently demonstrated that incorporation of CD27 costimulation into CARs greatly improves antitumor activity and T cell persistence. Still, virus-mediated gene transfer is expensive, laborious and enables long-term persistence, creating therapies which cannot be easily discontinued if toxic. To address these concerns, we utilized a non-integrating RNA platform to engineer human T cells to express FRα-specific, CD27 CARs and tested their capacity to eliminate human FRα+ cancer. Novel CARs comprised of human components were constructed, C4-27z and C4opt-27z, a codon-optimized variant created for efficient expression. Following RNA electroporation, C4-27z and C4opt-27z CAR expression is initially ubiquitous but progressively declines across T cell populations. In addition, C4-27z and C4opt-27z RNA CAR T cells secrete high levels of Th-1 cytokines and display strong cytolytic function against human FRα+ cancers in a time- and antigen-dependent manner. Further, C4-27z and C4opt-27z CAR T cells exhibit significant proliferation in vivo, facilitate the complete regression of fully disseminated human ovarian cancer xenografts in mice and reduce the progression of solid ovarian cancer. These results advocate for rapid progression of C4opt-27z RNA CAR to the clinic and establish a new paradigm for preclinical optimization and validation of RNA CAR candidates destined for clinical translation.

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