Patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) generally have a poor prognosis and a median overall survival of only about 13 months, indicating the urgent need for novel therapies. Delta-like protein 3 (DLL3) has been identified as a tumor-specific cell surface marker on neuroendocrine cancers, including SCLC. In this study, we developed a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) against DLL3 that displays antitumor efficacy in xenograft and murine SCLC models. CAR T cell expression of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-18 greatly enhanced the potency of DLL3-targeting CAR T cell therapy. In a murine metastatic SCLC model, IL-18 production increased the activation of both CAR T cells and endogenous tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. We also observed an increased infiltration, repolarization, and activation of antigen-presenting cells. Additionally, human IL-18–secreting anti-DLL3 CAR T cells showed an increased memory phenotype, less exhaustion, and induced durable responses in multiple SCLC models, an effect that could be further enhanced with anti–PD-1 blockade. All together, these results define DLL3-targeting CAR T cells that produce IL-18 as a potentially promising novel strategy against DLL3-expressing solid tumors.
Janneke E. Jaspers, Jonathan F. Khan, William D. Godfrey, Andrea V. Lopez, Metamia Ciampricotti, Charles M. Rudin, Renier J. Brentjens