Metastatic small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is not curable. While SCLC is initially sensitive to chemotherapy, remissions are short-lived. The relapse is induced by chemotherapy- selected tumor stem cells, which express the AC133 epitope of the CD133 stem cell marker. We studied the effectiveness of AC133-specific CAR T cells post-chemotherapy using human primary SCLC and an orthotopic xenograft mouse model. AC133-specific CAR T cells migrated to SCLC tumor lesions, reduced the tumor burden, and prolonged survival in a humanized orthotopic SCLC model, but were not able to entirely eliminate tumors. We identified CD73 and PD-L1 as immune-escape mechanisms and combined PD-1-inhibition and CD73-inhibition with CAR T cell treatment. This triple-immunotherapy induced cures in 25% of the mice, without signs of graft-versus-host disease or bone marrow failure. AC133+ cancer stem cells and PD-L1+CD73+ myeloid cells were detectable in primary human SCLC tissues, suggesting that patients may benefit from the triple-immunotherapy. We conclude that the combination of AC133-specific CAR T cells, anti-PD-1-antibody and CD73-inhibitor specifically eliminates chemoresistant tumor stem cells, overcomes SCLC-mediated T cell inhibition, and might induce long-term complete remission in an otherwise incurable disease.
Current Position: Professor in Faculty Medical and Life Sciences University Furtwangen. Group Leader in Department of Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Medical Center – University of Freiburg, Germany.
Research: Dr. Taromi is molecular biologist; her research is concentrated on the development of novel CAR T cell-based approaches against SCLC. Dr. Taromi is conducting preclinical studies on the mechanisms of SCLC metastasis formation, inhibitory tumor microenvironment, stem cell-based resistance and T cell infiltration of solid tumors.