BackgroundPre-clinical and clinical studies have shown that the infusion of CAR T cells with a naive-like (TN) and central memory (TCM) phenotype is associated with prolonged in vivo T cell persistence and superior anti-tumor effects. To optimize the maintenance of such populations during the in vitro preparation process, we explored the impact of T cell exposure to both traditional [fetal bovine serum (FBS), human AB serum (ABS)] and non-traditional [human platelet lysate (HPL) - a xeno-free protein supplement primarily used for the production of clinical grade mesenchymal stromal / stem cells (MSCs)] serum supplements.MethodsSecond generation chimeric antigen receptor with CD28 and CD3ζ endodomain targeting prostate stem cell antigen (PSCA) (P28z) or CD19 (1928z) were constructed and used for this study. After retroviral transduction, CAR T cells were divided into 3 conditions containing either FBS, ABS or HPL and expanded for 7 days. To evaluate the effect of different sera on CAR T cell function, we performed a series of in vitro and in vivo experiments.ResultsHPL-exposed CAR T cells exhibited the less differentiated T cell phenotype and gene signature, which displayed inferior short-term killing abilities (compared to their FBS- or ABS-cultured counterparts) but superior proliferative and anti-tumor effects in long-term in vitro coculture experiments. Importantly, in mouse xenograft model, HPL-exposed CAR T cells outperformed their ABS or FBS counterparts against both subcutaneous tumor (P28z T cells against Capan-1PSCA) and systemic tumor (1928z T cells against NALM6). We further observed maintenance of less differentiated T cell phenotype in HPL-exposed 1928z T cells generated from patient’s PBMCs with superior anti-tumor effect in long-term in vitro coculture experiments.ConclusionsOur study highlights the importance of serum choice in the generation of CAR T cells for clinical use.