iC9-GD2-CAR-VZV-CTLs/Refractory or Metastatic GD2-positive Sarcoma and Neuroblastoma (VEGAS)

Neuroblastoma Sarcoma

Age Group
0-9 years 10-17 years 18-26 years 27 years and older


Drug Pill Drug
Fludarabine Cyclophosphamide

Genetic Double Helix Genetic
GD2 T cells

Biological treatment cell Biological
VZV vaccine
Trial Summary & Details
Ages: Child, Adult, Older Adult
Condition: Osteosarcoma, Neuroblastoma

The purpose of this study is to find the largest safe dose of GD2-T cells (also called iC9-GD2-CAR-VZV-CTLs) in combination with a varicella zoster vaccine and lymohodepleting chemotherapy.

Additionally, we will learn what the side effects of this treatment are and to see whether this therapy might help patients with advanced osteosarcoma and neuroblastoma. Because there is no standard treatment for recurrent/refractory osteosarcoma and neuroblastoma at this time or because the currently used treatments do not work fully in all cases, patients are being asked to volunteer to take part in a gene transfer research study using special immune cells.
The body has different ways of fighting infection and disease. No single way seems perfect for fighting cancers. This research study combines two different ways of fighting cancer: antibodies and T cells. Antibodies are types of proteins that protect the body from infectious diseases and possibly cancer. T cells, also called T lymphocytes, are special infection-fighting blood cells that can kill other cells, including cells infected with viruses and tumor cells. Both antibodies and T cells have been used to treat patients with cancers. They have shown promise, but have not been strong enough to cure most patients.

Investigators have found from previous research that a new gene can be put into T cells that will make them recognize cancer cells and kill them. Investigators now want to see if a new gene can be put in these cells that will let the T cells recognize and kill sarcoma and neuroblastoma cells. The new gene is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and consists of an antibody called 14g2a that recognizes GD2, a protein that is found on sarcoma and neuroblastoma cells (GD2-CAR). In addition, it contains parts of the CD28 and OX40 genes which can stimulate T cells to make them live longer.
Investigators have found that CAR-T cells can kill some of the tumor, but they don’t last very long in the body and so the tumor eventually comes back. T cells that recognize the virus that causes chicken pox, varicella zoster virus (VZV), remain in the bloodstream for many years especially if they are stimulated or boosted by the VZV vaccine. Investigators will therefore insert the GD2-CAR gene into T cells that recognize VZV. These cells are called iC9-GD2-CAR-VZV-specific T cells but are referred to as GD2-T cells for simplicity.

Results & References
  • (2017) Vaccination Targeting Native Receptors to Enhance the Function and Proliferation of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-Modified T Cells.

    Tanaka M, Tashiro H, Omer B, Lapteva N, Ando J, Ngo M, Mehta B, Dotti G, Kinchington PR, Leen AM, Rossig C, Rooney CM. Vaccination Targeting Native Receptors to Enhance the Function and Proliferation of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-Modified T Cells. Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Jul 15;23(14):3499-3509. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-2138.

    The multiple mechanisms used by solid tumors to suppress tumor-specific immune responses are a major barrier to the success of adoptively transferred tumor-specific T cells. As viruses induce potent innate and adaptive immune responses, we hypothesized that the immunogenicity of viruses could be harnessed for the treatment of solid tumors if virus-specific T cells (VST) were modified with tumor-specific chimeric antigen receptors (CAR). We tested this hypothesis using VZV-specific T cells (VZVST) expressing a CAR for GD2, a disialoganglioside expressed on neuroblastoma and certain other tumors, so that the live-attenuated VZV vaccine could be used for in vivo stimulation.

    Experimental Design:
    We generated GMP-compliant, GD2.CAR-modified VZVSTs from healthy donors and cancer patients by stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with overlapping peptide libraries spanning selected VZV antigens, then tested their ability to recognize and kill GD2- and VZV antigen-expressing target cells.

    Our choice of VZV antigens was validated by the observation that T cells specific for these antigens expanded in vivo after VZV vaccination. VZVSTs secreted cytokines in response to VZV antigens, killed VZV-infected target cells and limited infectious virus spread in autologous fibroblasts. However, while GD2.CAR-modified VZVSTs killed neuroblastoma cell lines on their first encounter, they failed to control tumor cells in subsequent cocultures. Despite this CAR-specific dysfunction, CAR-VZVSTs retained functional specificity for VZV antigens via their TCRs and GD2.CAR function was partially rescued by stimulation through the TCR or exposure to dendritic cell supernatants.

    Vaccination via the TCR may provide a means to reactivate CAR-T cells rendered dysfunctional by the tumor microenvironment (NCT01953900). Clin Cancer Res; 23(14); 3499-509.

Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX
Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX
Sarah Whittle