Transgenic expression of IL15 improves antiglioma activity of IL13Rα2-CAR T cells but results in antigen loss variants

Giedre Krenciute, Brooke L. Prinzing, Zhongzhen Yi, Meng Fen Wu, Hao Liu, Gianpietro Dotti, Irina V. Balyasnikova, Stephen Gottschalk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most aggressive primary brain tumor in adults and is virtually incurable with conventional therapies. Immunotherapy with T cells expressing GBM-specific chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) is an attractive approach to improve outcomes. Although CAR T cells targetingGBMantigens, such as IL13 receptor subunit α2 (IL13Rα2), HER2, and EGFR variant III (EGFRvIII), have had antitumor activity in preclinical models, early-phase clinical testing has demonstrated limited antiglioma activity. Transgenic expression of IL15 is an appealing strategy to enhance CAR T-cell effector function. We tested this approach in our IL13Rα2-positive glioma model in which limited IL13Rα2-CAR T-cell persistence results in recurrence of antigenpositive gliomas. T cells were genetically modified with retroviral vectors encoding IL13Rα2-CARs or IL15 (IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T cells). IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T cells recognized glioma cells in an antigen-dependent fashion, had greater proliferative capacity, and produced more cytokines after repeated stimulations in comparison with IL13Rα2-CAR T cells. No autonomous IL13Rα2-CAR. IL15 T-cell proliferation was observed; however, IL15 expression increased IL13Rα2-CAR T-cell viability in the absence of exogenous cytokines or antigen. In vivo, IL13Rα2-CAR.IL15 T cells persisted longer and had greater antiglioma activity than IL13Rα2-CAR T cells, resulting in a survival advantage. Gliomas recurring after 40 days after T-cell injection had downregulated IL13Rα2 expression, indicating that antigen loss variants occur in the setting of improved T-cell persistence. Thus, CAR T cells for GBM should not only be genetically modified to improve their proliferation and persistence, but also to target multiple antigens. Summary: Glioblastoma responds imperfectly to immunotherapy. Transgenic expression of IL15 in T cells expressing CARs improved their proliferative capacity, persistence, and cytokine production. The emergence of antigen loss variants highlights the need to target multiple tumor antigens. Cancer Immunol Res; 5(7); 571-81.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-581
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Immunology Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Immunology


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