NEW YORK, May 12, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Cellectis (the “Company”) (Euronext Growth: ALCLS - NASDAQ: CLLS), a clinical-stage biotechnology company using its pioneering gene-editing platform to develop life-saving cell and gene therapies, today published an article in Frontiers Bioenginnering, demonstrating the efficacy of its TALEN® engineered FAP UCART-cells in cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) depletion, reduction of desmoplasia and tumor infiltration.
Adoptive cell therapy based on chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells has proven to be lifesaving for many cancer patients.
However, its therapeutic efficacy has so far been restricted to only a few malignancies, with solid tumors proving to be especially recalcitrant to efficient therapy. Poor intra-tumor infiltration by T cells and T cell dysfunction due to a desmoplastic, immunosuppressive microenvironment are key barriers for CAR T-cell success against solid tumors.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are critical components of the tumor stroma, evolving specifically within the tumor microenvironment (TME). The CAF secretome is a significant contributor to the extracellular matrix and a plethora of cytokines and growth factors that induce immune suppression. Together they form a physical and chemical barrier which induces a T cell-excluding ‘cold’ TME. CAF depletion in stroma rich solid tumors can thus provide an opportunity to convert immune evasive tumors susceptible to tumor-antigen CAR T-cell cytotoxicity.
Cellectis used its TALEN®-based gene editing platform to engineer non-alloreactive, immune-evasive UCAR T-cells targeting the unique CAF marker Fibroblast Activation Protein, alpha (FAP) to test whether FAP UCAR T-cell pre-treatment can make ‘cold’ tumors susceptible to subsequent tumor-antigen targeting CAR T-cells. Cellectis also generated non-alloreactive CAR T-cells against the tumor associated antigen (TAA) Mesothelin which is overexpressed in most solid tumors including mesothelioma and large sub-sets of ovarian, breast, pancreatic and lung adenocarcinomas. The combination treatment strategy was tested in a pre-clinical mouse model of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive, stroma-rich breast cancer sub-type with poor prognosis and very limited treatment options at present.
“Over 90% of epithelial cancers including breast, colorectal, pancreatic and lung adenocarcinomas express the CAF-specific surface marker, fibroblast activation protein α (FAP), which makes it a promising CAR T-cell target. In this study, we propose a novel and versatile approach of combination CAR T-cell therapy that can be extended to most stroma-rich cold tumors with relevant tumor-antigen targeting CAR T-cells which otherwise are recalcitrant to cell therapy”, said Shipra Das, Ph.D., Senior Scientist & Team Leader at Cellectis.
Preclinical data showed that:
- In a mouse xenograft model, successful implantation of injected CAFs in the tumors was confirmed by positive staining of spindle-like cells with human-specific FAP antibody, recapitulating a physiologically relevant TNBC tumor with tumor and stromal compartments.
- FAP UCART-cells alone significantly reduced tumor growth.
- In vitro and in vivo results show that FAP UCART-cells enable the reprogramming of the cold, stroma-rich triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) TME, making the tumor susceptible to subsequent Meso UCAR T infiltration and cytotoxicity and improving the overall antitumor activity of the treatment.
- In the context of combination therapy with anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitor, maximal anti-tumor activity and survival benefits were observed upon FAP UCAR T-cell treatment followed by Meso UCAR T-cell treatment.
This article is available on Frontiers Bioengineering website by clicking on this link.
Cellectis is a clinical-stage biotechnology company using its pioneering gene-editing platform to develop life-saving cell and gene therapies. Cellectis utilizes an allogeneic approach for CAR-T immunotherapies in oncology, pioneering the concept of off-the-shelf and ready-to-use gene-edited CAR T-cells to treat cancer patients, and a platform to make therapeutic gene editing in hemopoietic stem cells for various diseases. As a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with over 23 years of experience and expertise in gene editing, Cellectis is developing life-changing product candidates utilizing TALEN®, its gene editing technology, and PulseAgile, its pioneering electroporation system to harness the power of the immune system in order to treat diseases with unmet medical needs. Cellectis’ headquarters are in Paris, France, with locations in New York, New York and Raleigh, North Carolina. Cellectis is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market (ticker: CLLS) and on Euronext Growth (ticker: ALCLS). For more information, visit www.cellectis.com. Follow Cellectis on social media: @cellectis, LinkedIn and YouTube.
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