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Blood. 2013 Aug 8;122(6):863-71. doi: 10.1182/blood-2013-03-490565. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Cardiovascular toxicity and titin cross-reactivity of affinity-enhanced T cells in myeloma and melanoma.

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Siteman Cancer Center and Departments of Medicine and Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA.


An obstacle to cancer immunotherapy has been that the affinity of T-cell receptors (TCRs) for antigens expressed in tumors is generally low. We initiated clinical testing of engineered T cells expressing an affinity-enhanced TCR against HLA-A*01-restricted MAGE-A3. Open-label protocols to test the TCRs for patients with myeloma and melanoma were initiated. The first two treated patients developed cardiogenic shock and died within a few days of T-cell infusion, events not predicted by preclinical studies of the high-affinity TCRs. Gross findings at autopsy revealed severe myocardial damage, and histopathological analysis revealed T-cell infiltration. No MAGE-A3 expression was detected in heart autopsy tissues. Robust proliferation of the engineered T cells in vivo was documented in both patients. A beating cardiomyocyte culture generated from induced pluripotent stem cells triggered T-cell killing, which was due to recognition of an unrelated peptide derived from the striated muscle-specific protein titin. These patients demonstrate that TCR-engineered T cells can have serious and not readily predictable off-target and organ-specific toxicities and highlight the need for improved methods to define the specificity of engineered TCRs.

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