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Journal Article

A multimodal imaging workflow for monitoring CAR T cell therapy against solid tumor from whole-body to single-cell level


Alves,  Frauke
Research Group of Translational Molecular Imaging, Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Pfeifer, R., Henze, J., Wittich, K., Gosselink, A., Kinkhabwala, A., Gremse, F., et al. (2022). A multimodal imaging workflow for monitoring CAR T cell therapy against solid tumor from whole-body to single-cell level. Theranostics, 12(11), 4834-4850. doi:10.7150/thno.68966.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-3EDC-9
CAR T cell research in solid tumors often lacks spatiotemporal information and therefore, there is a need for a molecular tomography to facilitate high-throughput preclinical monitoring of CAR T cells. Furthermore, a gap exists between macro- and microlevel imaging data to better assess intratumor infiltration of therapeutic cells. We addressed this challenge by combining 3D µComputer tomography bioluminescence tomography (µCT/BLT), light-sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) and cyclic immunofluorescence (IF) staining.

Methods: NSG mice with subcutaneous AsPC1 xenograft tumors were treated with EGFR CAR T cell (± IL-2) or control BDCA-2 CAR T cell (± IL-2) (n = 7 each). Therapeutic T cells were genetically modified to co-express the CAR of interest and the luciferase CBR2opt. IL-2 was administered s.c. under the xenograft tumor on days 1, 3, 5 and 7 post-therapy-initiation at a dose of 25,000 IU/mouse. CAR T cell distribution was measured in 2D BLI and 3D µCT/BLT every 3-4 days. On day 6, 4 tumors were excised for cyclic IF where tumor sections were stained with a panel of 25 antibodies. On day 6 and 13, 8 tumors were excised from rhodamine lectin-preinjected mice, permeabilized, stained for CD3 and imaged by LSFM.

Results: 3D µCT/BLT revealed that CAR T cells pharmacokinetics is affected by antigen recognition, where CAR T cell tumor accumulation based on target-dependent infiltration was significantly increased in comparison to target-independent infiltration, and spleen accumulation was delayed. LSFM supported these findings and revealed higher T cell accumulation in target-positive groups at day 6, which also infiltrated the tumor deeper. Interestingly, LSFM showed that most CAR T cells accumulate at the tumor periphery and around vessels. Surprisingly, LSFM and cyclic IF revealed that local IL-2 application resulted in early-phase increased proliferation, but long-term overstimulation of CAR T cells, which halted the early added therapeutic effect.

Conclusion: Overall, we demonstrated that 3D µCT/BLT is a valuable non-isotope-based technology for whole-body cell therapy monitoring and investigating CAR T cell pharmacokinetics. We also presented combining LSFM and MICS for ex vivo 3D- and 2D-microscopy tissue analysis to assess intratumoral therapeutic cell distribution and status.