Extracellular Vesicles Expressing CD19 Antigen Improve Expansion and Efficacy of CD19-Targeted CAR-T Cells

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Abstract

Background: CAR-T cell therapy is effective in the treatment of certain hematological malignancies, and the expansion and functional persistence of CAR-T cells in vivo are crucial to clinical efficacy. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential of extracellular vesicles (EVs) modified with the CAR antigen to promote the efficacy of CAR-T cells in vivo. Methods: We generated HEK293T-derived EVs to present the CD19 antigen as the CAR target. In vitro, EVs expressing CD19 antigen (CD19 EVs) were co-incubated with anti-CD19 CAR-T cells. Then, proliferation, cytokine secretion, CD107a expression, tumor killing, subsets, and immune checkpoint expression were measured to assess CAR-T cell function. After infusion of CD19 EVs pretreated CAR-T cells into a lymphoma xenograft mouse model, flow cytometry and digital PCR were used to measure the expansion of CAR-T cells, and tumor volumes were continuously monitored to assess the anti-tumor efficacy of CAR-T cells in vivo. Another mouse model was created to investigate the effect of in vivo injection of CD19 EVs on the functional persistence of CAR-T cells, and safety was determined by histopathology of the main organs. Results: CD19 EVs activated CAR-T cells in an antigen-specific and dose-dependent manner and promoted the selective expansion and cytokine secretion of co-cultured CAR-T cells. Specifically, CD19 EVs preferably increased the expansion of the CAR-T subpopulation with a high surface CD19-CAR density and consequently enhanced the anti-tumor activity of CAR-T cells. Futhermore, CD19-EVs-primed CAR-T cells achieved superior proliferation and anti-tumor effects in a mouse model with lymphoma xenograft. In vivo administration of CD19 EVs promoted the functional persistence of CAR-T cells in the xenograft mouse model. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that antigen-expressing EVs can be utilized as a boost to improve CAR-T cell efficacy in vitro and in vivo.

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Zhang, Y., Ge, T., Huang, M., Qin, Y., Liu, T., Mu, W., … Wang, J. (2023). Extracellular Vesicles Expressing CD19 Antigen Improve Expansion and Efficacy of CD19-Targeted CAR-T Cells. International Journal of Nanomedicine, 18, 49–63. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S390720

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