Adoptive transfer of T cell receptor–engineered (TCR-engineered) T cells is a promising approach in cancer therapy but needs improvement for more effective treatment of solid tumors. While most clinical approaches have focused on CD8+ T cells, the importance of CD4+ T cells in mediating tumor regression has become apparent. Regarding shared (self) tumor antigens, it is unclear whether the human CD4+ T cell repertoire has been shaped by tolerance mechanisms and lacks highly functional TCRs suitable for therapy. Here, TCRs against the tumor-associated antigen NY-ESO-1 were isolated either from human CD4+ T cells or from mice that express a diverse human TCR repertoire with HLA-DRA/DRB1*0401 restriction and are NY-ESO-1 negative. NY-ESO-1–reactive TCRs from the mice showed superior recognition of tumor cells and higher functional activity compared with TCRs from humans. We identified a candidate TCR, TCR-3598_2, which was expressed in CD4+ T cells and caused tumor regression in combination with NY-ESO-1–redirected CD8+ T cells in a mouse model of adoptive T cell therapy. These data suggest that MHC II–restricted TCRs against NY-ESO-1 from a nontolerant nonhuman host are of optimal affinity and that the combined use of MHC I– and II–restricted TCRs against NY-ESO-1 can make adoptive T cell therapy more effective.
Lucia Poncette, Xiaojing Chen, Felix K.M. Lorenz, Thomas Blankenstein