CRISPR-engineered T cells in patients with refractory cancer

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing provides a powerful tool to enhance the natural ability of human T cells to fight cancer. We report a first-in-human phase 1 clinical trial to test the safety and feasibility of multiplex CRISPR-Cas9 editing to engineer T cells in three patients with refractory cancer. Two genes encoding the endogenous T cell receptor (TCR) chains, TCRα (TRAC) and TCRβ (TRBC), were deleted in T cells to reduce TCR mispairing and to enhance the expression of a synthetic, cancer-specific TCR transgene (NY-ESO-1). Removal of a third gene encoding programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1; PDCD1), was performed to improve antitumor immunity. Adoptive transfer of engineered T cells into patients resulted in durable engraftment with edits at all three genomic loci. Although chromosomal translocations were detected, the frequency decreased over time. Modified T cells persisted for up to 9 months, suggesting that immunogenicity is minimal under these conditions and demonstrating the feasibility of CRISPR gene editing for cancer immunotherapy.