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Gene editing: Towards the third generation of adoptive T-cell transfer therapies


First-generation adoptive T-cell transfer (ACT) administering tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), and second-generation ACT using autologous T cells genetically modified to express tumor-specific T-cell receptors (TCRs) or chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) have both shown promise for the treatment of several cancers, including melanoma, leukemia and lymphoma. However, these treatments require labor-intensive manufacturing of the cell product for each patient, frequently utilize lentiviral or retroviral vectors to genetically modify the T cells, and have limited antitumor efficacy in solid tumors. Gene editing is revolutionizing the field of gene therapy, and ACT is at the forefront of this revolution. Gene-editing technologies can be used to re-engineer the phenotype of T cells to increase their antitumor potency, to generate off-the-shelf ACT products, and to replace endogenous TCRs with tumor-specific TCRs or CARs using homology-directed repair (HDR) donor templates. Adeno-associated viral vectors or linear DNA have been used as HDR donor templates. Of note, non-viral delivery substantially reduces the time required to generate clinical-grade reagents for manufacture of T-cell products-a critical step for the translation of personalized T-cell therapies. These technological advances in the field using gene editing open the door to the third generation of ACT therapies.

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