Decade-Long Safety and Function of Retroviral-Modified Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells

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Science Translational Medicine  02 May 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 132, pp. 132ra53
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003761

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Standing the Test of Time

Retroviral vectors were once the mainstay of gene transfer because they could stably integrate into the host genome. However, some patients in early trials developed leukemia because of insertional mutagenesis. Now, Scholler et al. report that retroviral vector–mediated gene transfer in T cells may not have the same safety concerns, and that these cells may persist over a decade in patients.

The authors followed patients from three clinical trials who received T cells transduced with gammaretroviruses carrying a chimeric antigen receptor. They found that these cells were present in recipients over a decade after infusion at levels higher than those induced by standard vaccines. These cells were still functional, had stable levels of engraftment, and did not require host immunosuppression before transplant. Moreover, the authors found no evidence of integration-induced immortalization, with no observable enrichment of integration sites near genes involved in growth control or transformation. Thus, the safety of retroviral vectors may be cell type–specific, opening up engineered T cells as a delivery platform for therapeutics.