Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Duffy

Second Advisor

Dr. Warren Shlomchik

Third Advisor

Dr. Richard Edelson


Human T cells may be genetically modified to express targeted chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). We have previously demonstrated that T cells modified to express a CAR specific to the B cell tumor antigen CD19, termed 19-28z, successfully eradicate systemic human CD19+ tumors in SCID-Beige mice. While these results are encouraging, this xenogeneic tumor model fails to address potential limitations of this therapeutic approach in the clinical setting wherein these modified T cells encounter a hostile tumor microenvironment. Specifically, these models fail to address potential effector T cell inhibition mediated by endogenous regulatory T cells (Tregs). To investigate the role of inhibitory Tregs, we initially assessed the in vitro function of CAR-modified T cells in the context of Tregs. We found that CD19-targeted T cell proliferation and cytotoxicity were inhibited by purified natural Tregs. To further assess the role of these Tregs in vivo, we isolated and genetically modified Tregs to express the CD19-targeted 19z1 CAR. We verified specific trafficking of targeted Tregs to CD19+ tumors in vivo, and demonstrate that 19z1 Tregs wholly inhibit anti-tumor function of subsequently injected 19-28z effector T cells even at low Treg to effector T cell ratios (1:8). In order to overcome this limitation, we assessed whether the addition of a pro-inflammatory cytokine in vitro could overcome Treg inhibition. Indeed, the addition of exogenous IL-12 mediated resistance of 19-28z T cells to Treg inhibition. In light of this data we generated a bicistronic retroviral vector containing both the 19-28z CAR as well as the murine IL-12 fusion gene (19-28z IRES IL-12). Significantly, we found that 19-28z/IL-12+ T cells when compared to 19-28z+ T cells exhibited enhanced proliferation in vitro as well as resistance to Treg mediated inhibition. Finally, we demonstrate that 19-28z/IL-12+ T cells overcome Treg inhibition in vivo in our SCID-Beige Treg tumor model. In conclusion, tumor targeted T cells modified to express IL-12 demonstrate significantly enhanced in vivo anti-tumor efficacy in the presence of Tregs that are similarly targeted to the site of tumor. These results validate utilization of IL-12 secreting tumor targeted T cells in future clinical trials.