CAR T-cell Immunotherapy for Brain Tumors

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Suryadevara, Carter


Sampson, John H

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Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and deadly primary malignant brain tumor. Despite an aggressive multimodal standard of care, prognoses and patient quality of life remain exceptionally poor, due in part to the non-specific and toxic nature of conventional treatment options. By contrast, adoptive cell transfer of T cells genetically modified to express tumor-specific chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) has emerged as a promising approach to targeting brain tumors, given that T cells have migratory capacity within the brain parenchyma, a mechanism to discriminate between normal and neoplastic tissue, and can develop immunological memory. This work spans the development of an effective CAR T-cell immunotherapy strategy targeting the tumor-specific driver mutation, EGFRvIII, which is expressed exclusively by GBM and other cancers but not normal tissue.

Chapters 1 and 2 provide an overview of GBM and the current clinical standard of care, the role of the immune system as it relates to the development and eradication of cancer, and an introduction to various immunotherapy platforms under active preclinical and clinical investigation. Chapter 3 details the historical context of adoptive T-cell immunotherapy and its evolution to present day, detailing our early proof-of-principle studies that led to the inception of the original research described herein. Data presented in Chapter 4 summarizes our translational objectives in implementing CAR T-cell immunotherapy clinically for patients with newly-diagnosed GBM. Chapter 5 addresses a perennial limitation to the immunotherapy of solid tumors by demonstrating an ability of modified CARs to circumvent intratumoral immunosuppression mediated by regulatory T cells. In Chapter 6, we present data that demonstrate, for the first time, a novel role for host lymphodepletion in cellular immunotherapy delivered directly into the brain. Lastly, Chapter 7 contains concluding remarks on the current state of CAR technology and important future directions.

In summary, our work here demonstrates that CAR T cell immunotherapy 1) has curative potential against highly established, orthotopic and syngeneic murine GBM, 2) can be strategically implemented within the current clinical treatment paradigm for GBM, and 3) can overcome a major mechanism of immunosuppression, demonstrating the versatility of gene-modified T cells for the treatment of malignant brain tumors. Together, these studies have paved way for the rationale design of two phase I clinical trials in patients with newly-diagnosed and recurrent EGFRvIII-positive GBM at Duke University.






Suryadevara, Carter (2017). CAR T-cell Immunotherapy for Brain Tumors. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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