Clin. Cancer Res. 29 (20) 4139-4152 [2023-10-13; online 2023-08-04]
Although CD19 chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T) therapy has shown remarkable success in B-cell malignancies, a substantial fraction of patients do not obtain a long-term clinical response. This could be influenced by the quality of the individual CAR-T infusion product. To shed some light on this, clinical outcome was correlated to characteristics of CAR-T infusion products. In this phase II study, patients with B-cell lymphoma (n = 23) or leukemia (n = 1) received one or two infusions of third-generation CD19-directed CAR-Ts (2 × 108/m2). The clinical trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov: NCT03068416. We investigated the transcriptional profile of individual CD19 CAR-T infusion products using targeted single-cell RNA sequencing and multicolor flow cytometry. Two CAR-T infusions were not better than one in the settings used in this study. As for the CAR-T infusion products, we found that effector-like CD8+CAR-Ts with a high polyfunctionality, high cytotoxic and cytokine production profile, and low dysfunctional signature were associated with clinical response. An extended ex vivo expansion time during CAR-T manufacturing negatively influenced the proportion of effector CD8+CAR-Ts in the infusion product. We identified cell-intrinsic characteristics of effector CD8+CAR-Ts correlating with response that could be used as an indicator for clinical outcome. The results in the study also serve as a guide to CAR-T manufacturing practices.