BACKGROUND - Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is a fatal, myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasm of early childhood. Patients with JMML have mutually exclusive genetic abnormalities in granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor (GMR, CD116) signaling pathway. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is currently the only curative treatment option for JMML; however, disease recurrence is a major cause of treatment failure. We investigated adoptive immunotherapy using GMR-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) for JMML.
METHODS - We constructed a novel CAR capable of binding to GMR via its ligand, GM-CSF, and generated piggyBac transposon-based GMR CAR-modified T cells from three healthy donors and two patients with JMML. We further evaluated the anti-proliferative potential of GMR CAR T cells on leukemic CD34(+) cells from six patients with JMML (two NRAS mutations, three PTPN11 mutations, and one monosomy 7), and normal CD34(+) cells.
RESULTS - GMR CAR T cells from healthy donors suppressed the cytokine-dependent growth of MO7e cells, but not the growth of K562 and Daudi cells. Co-culture of healthy GMR CAR T cells with CD34(+) cells of five patients with JMML at effector to target ratios of 1:1 and 1:4 for 2 days significantly decreased total colony growth, regardless of genetic abnormality. Furthermore, GMR CAR T cells from a non-transplanted patient and a transplanted patient inhibited the proliferation of respective JMML CD34(+) cells at onset to a degree comparable to healthy GMR CAR T cells. Seven-day co-culture of GMR CAR T cells resulted in a marked suppression of JMML CD34(+) cell proliferation, particularly CD34(+)CD38(-) cell proliferation stimulated with stem cell factor and thrombopoietin on AGM-S3 cells. Meanwhile, GMR CAR T cells exerted no effects on normal CD34(+) cell colony growth.
CONCLUSIONS - Ligand-based GMR CAR T cells may have anti-proliferative effects on stem and progenitor cells in JMML.