T-SIGn tumor reengineering therapy and CAR T cells synergize in combination therapy to clear human lung tumor xenografts and lung metastases in NSG mice
Although chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have emerged as highly effective treatments for patients with hematologic malignancies, similar efficacy has not been achieved in the context of solid tumors. There are several reasons for this disparity including a) fewer solid tumor target antigens, b) heterogenous target expression amongst tumor cells, c) poor trafficking of CAR T cells to the solid tumor and d) an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME). Oncolytic viruses have the potential to change this paradigm by a) directly lysing tumor cells and releasing tumor neoantigens, b) stimulating the local host innate immune response to release cytokines and recruit additional innate and adaptive immune cells, c) carrying virus-encoded transgenes to “re-program” the TME to a pro-inflammatory environment and d) promoting an adaptive immune response to the neoantigens in this newly permissive TME. Here we show that the Tumor-Specific Immuno-Gene (T-SIGn) virus NG-347 which encodes IFNα, MIP1α and CD80 synergizes with anti-EGFR CAR T cells as well as anti-HER-2 CAR T cells to clear A549 human tumor xenografts and their pulmonary metastases at doses which are subtherapeutic when each is used as a sole treatment. We show that NG-347 changes the TME to a pro-inflammatory environment resulting in the recruitment and activation of both CAR T cells and mouse innate immune cells. We also show that the transgenes encoded by the virus are critical as synergy is lost in their absence.