BackgroundGene-modified autologous T cells expressing NY-ESO-1c259, an affinity-enhanced T-cell receptor (TCR) reactive against the NY-ESO-1-specific HLA-A*02-restricted peptide SLLMWITQC (NY-ESO-1 SPEAR T-cells; GSK 794), have demonstrated clinical activity in patients with advanced synovial sarcoma (SS). The factors contributing to gene-modified T-cell expansion and the changes within the tumor microenvironment (TME) following T-cell infusion remain unclear. These studies address the immunological mechanisms of response and resistance in patients with SS treated with NY-ESO-1 SPEAR T-cells.MethodsFour cohorts were included to evaluate antigen expression and preconditioning on efficacy. Clinical responses were assessed by RECIST v1.1. Engineered T-cell persistence was determined by qPCR. Serum cytokines were evaluated by immunoassay. Transcriptomic analyses and immunohistochemistry were performed on tumor biopsies from patients before and after T-cell infusion. Gene-modified T-cells were detected within the TME via an RNAish assay.ResultsResponses across cohorts were affected by preconditioning and intra-tumoral NY-ESO-1 expression. Of the 42 patients reported (data cut-off 4June2018), 1 patient had a complete response, 14 patients had partial responses, 24 patients had stable disease, and 3 patients had progressive disease. The magnitude of gene-modified T-cell expansion shortly after infusion was associated with response in patients with high intra-tumoral NY-ESO-1 expression. Patients receiving a fludarabine-containing conditioning regimen experienced increases in serum IL-7 and IL-15. Prior to infusion, the TME exhibited minimal leukocyte infiltration; CD163+ tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) were the dominant population. Modest increases in intra-tumoral leukocytes (≤5%) were observed in a subset of subjects at approximately 8 weeks. Beyond 8 weeks post infusion, the TME was minimally infiltrated with a TAM-dominant leukocyte infiltrate. Tumor-associated antigens and antigen presentation did not significantly change within the tumor post-T-cell infusion. Finally, NY-ESO-1 SPEAR T cells trafficked to the TME and maintained cytotoxicity in a subset of patients.ConclusionsOur studies elucidate some factors that underpin response and resistance to NY-ESO-1 SPEAR T-cell therapy. From these data, we conclude that a lymphodepletion regimen containing high doses of fludarabine and cyclophosphamide is necessary for SPEAR T-cell persistence and efficacy. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that non-T-cell inflamed tumors, which are resistant to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors, can be treated with adoptive T-cell based immunotherapy.Trial registrationClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01343043, Registered 27 April 2011.