The absence of cancer-restricted surface markers is a major impediment to antigen-specific immunotherapy using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. For example, targeting the canonical myeloid marker CD33 in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) results in toxicity from destruction of normal myeloid cells. We hypothesized that a leukemia-specific antigen could be created by deleting CD33 from normal hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), thereby generating a hematopoietic system resistant to CD33-targeted therapy and enabling specific targeting of AML with CAR T cells. We generated CD33-deficient human HSPCs and demonstrated normal engraftment and differentiation in immunodeficient mice. Autologous CD33 KO HSPC transplantation in rhesus macaques demonstrated long-term multilineage engraftment of gene-edited cells with normal myeloid function. CD33-deficient cells were impervious to CD33-targeting CAR T cells, allowing for efficient elimination of leukemia without myelotoxicity. These studies illuminate a novel approach to antigen-specific immunotherapy by genetically engineering the host to avoid on-target, off-tumor toxicity. Reconstitution of the immune system with CD33-negative human hematopoietic stem cells enables anti-CD33 CAR-T cell killing of acute myeloid leukemia while sparing myeloid development and function.
- CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing
- acute myeloid leukemia
- chimeric antigen receptor T cells
- non-human primate hematopoiesis