Genetically engineered T-cell therapy is an emerging treatment of hematologic cancers with potential utility in epithelial cancers. We investigated T-cell therapy for the treatment of metastatic human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated epithelial cancers.
This phase I/II, single-center trial enrolled patients with metastatic HPV16-positive cancer from any primary tumor site who had received prior platinum-based therapy. Treatment consisted of autologous genetically engineered T cells expressing a T-cell receptor directed against HPV16 E6 (E6 T-cell receptor T cells), a conditioning regimen, and systemic aldesleukin.
Twelve patients were treated in the study. No dose-limiting toxicities were observed in the phase I portion. Two patients, both in the highest-dose cohort, experienced objective tumor responses. A patient with three lung metastases experienced complete regression of one tumor and partial regression of two tumors, which were subsequently resected; she has no evidence of disease 3 years after treatment. All patients demonstrated high levels of peripheral blood engraftment with E6 T-cell receptor T cells 1 month after treatment (median, 30%; range, 4% to 53%). One patient’s resistant tumor demonstrated a frameshift deletion in interferon gamma receptor 1, which mediates response to interferon gamma, an essential molecule for T-cell-mediated antitumor activity. Another patient’s resistant tumor demonstrated loss of HLA-A*02:01, the antigen presentation molecule required for this therapy. A tumor from a patient who responded to treatment did not demonstrate genetic defects in interferon gamma response or antigen presentation.
Engineered T cells can induce regression of epithelial cancer. Tumor resistance was observed in the context of T-cell programmed death-1 expression and defects in interferon gamma and antigen presentation pathway components. These findings have important implications for development of cellular therapy in epithelial cancers.