Bi- and tri-valent T cell engagers deplete tumour-associated macrophages in cancer patient samples.
Scott EM., Jacobus EJ., Lyons B., Frost S., Freedman JD., Dyer A., Khalique H., Taverner WK., Carr A., Champion BR., Fisher KD., Seymour LW., Duffy MR.
BACKGROUND: Tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) are often implicated in cancer progression but can also exert anti-tumour activities. Selective eradication of cancer-promoting (M2-like) TAM subsets is a highly sought-after goal. Here, we have devised a novel strategy to achieve selective TAM depletion, involving the use of T cell engagers to direct endogenous T cell cytotoxicity towards specific M2-like TAMs. To avoid "on-target off-tumour" toxicities, we have explored localising expression of the T cell engagers to the tumour with enadenotucirev (EnAd), an oncolytic adenovirus in Phase I/II clinical trials. METHOD: A panel of bi- and tri-valent T cell engagers (BiTEs/TriTEs) was constructed, recognising CD3ε on T cells and CD206 or folate receptor β (FRβ) on M2-like macrophages. Initial characterisation of BiTE/TriTE activity and specificity was performed with M1- and M2-polarised monocyte-derived macrophages and autologous lymphocytes from healthy human peripheral blood donors. T cell engagers were inserted into the genome of EnAd, and oncolytic activity and BiTE secretion assessed with DLD-1 tumour cells. Clinically-relevant ex vivo models (whole malignant ascites from cancer patients) were employed to assess the efficacies of the free- and virally-encoded T cell engagers. RESULTS: T cells activated by the CD206- and FRβ-targeting BiTEs/TriTEs preferentially killed M2- over M1-polarised autologous macrophages, with EC50 values in the nanomolar range. A TriTE with bivalent CD3ε binding - the first of its kind - demonstrated enhanced potency whilst retaining target cell selectivity, whereas a CD28-containing TriTE elicited non-specific T cell activation. In immunosuppressive malignant ascites, both free and EnAd-encoded T cell engagers triggered endogenous T cell activation and IFN-γ production, leading to increased T cell numbers and depletion of CD11b+CD64+ ascites macrophages. Strikingly, surviving macrophages exhibited a general increase in M1 marker expression, suggesting microenvironmental repolarisation towards a pro-inflammatory state. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to achieve selective depletion of specific M2-like macrophage subsets, opening the possibility of eradicating cancer-supporting TAMs whilst sparing those with anti-tumour potential. Targeted TAM depletion with T cell engager-armed EnAd offers a powerful therapeutic approach combining direct cancer cell cytotoxicity with reversal of immune suppression.