Adoptive immunotherapy for solid tumors relies on infusing large numbers of T cells to mediate successful antitumor responses in patients. While long-term rapid-expansion protocols (REPs) produce sufficient numbers of CD8+ T cells for treatment, they also cause decline in the cell’s therapeutic fitness. In contrast, we discovered that IL-17–producing CD4+ T cells (Th17 cells) do not require REPs to expand 5,000-fold over 3 weeks. Also, unlike Th1 cells, Th17 cells do not exhibit hallmarks of senescence or apoptosis, retaining robust antitumor efficacy in vivo. Three-week-expanded Th17 cells eliminated melanoma as effectively as Th17 cells expanded for 1 week when infused in equal numbers into mice. However, treating mice with large recalcitrant tumors required the infusion of all cells generated after 2 or 3 weeks of expansion, while the cell yield obtained after 1-week expansion was insufficient. Long-term-expanded Th17 cells also protected mice from tumor rechallenge including lung metastasis. Importantly, 2-week-expanded human chimeric antigen receptor–positive (CAR+) Th17 cells also retained their ability to regress human mesothelioma, while CAR+ Th1 cells did not. Our results indicate that tumor-reactive Th17 cells are an effective cell therapy for cancer, remaining uncompromised when expanded for a long duration owing to their resistance to senescence.
Jacob S. Bowers, Michelle H. Nelson, Kinga Majchrzak, Stefanie R. Bailey, Baerbel Rohrer, Andrew D.M. Kaiser, Carl Atkinson, Luca Gattinoni, Chrystal M. Paulos