Research ArticleImmunotherapy

Chimeric antigen receptor T cells persist and induce sustained remissions in relapsed refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Science Translational Medicine  02 Sep 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 303, pp. 303ra139
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac5415

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CAR T cells for the long haul

Immunotherapy is one of the most promising avenues of cancer therapy, with the potential to induce sustained remissions in patients with refractory disease. Studies with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)–modified T cells have paved the way in patients with relapsed and refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Porter et al. now report the mature results from their initial CAR T cell trial. CAR T cell persistence correlated with clinical responses, and these cells were functional up to 4 years after treatment. No patient who achieved complete remission relapsed, and no minimal residual disease was detected, suggesting that in a subset of patients, CAR T cells may drive disease eradication.

Abstract

Patients with multiply relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have a poor prognosis. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)–modified T cells targeting CD19 have the potential to improve on the low complete response rates with conventional therapies by inducing sustained remissions in patients with refractory B cell malignancies. We previously reported preliminary results on three patients with refractory CLL. We report the mature results from our initial trial using CAR-modified T cells to treat 14 patients with relapsed and refractory CLL. Autologous T cells transduced with a CD19-directed CAR (CTL019) lentiviral vector were infused into patients with relapsed/refractory CLL at doses of 0.14 × 108 to 11 × 108 CTL019 cells (median, 1.6 × 108 cells). Patients were monitored for toxicity, response, expansion, and persistence of circulating CTL019 T cells. The overall response rate in these heavily pretreated CLL patients was 8 of 14 (57%), with 4 complete remissions (CR) and 4 partial remissions (PR). The in vivo expansion of the CAR T cells correlated with clinical responses, and the CAR T cells persisted and remained functional beyond 4 years in the first two patients achieving CR. No patient in CR has relapsed. All responding patients developed B cell aplasia and experienced cytokine release syndrome, coincident with T cell proliferation. Minimal residual disease was not detectable in patients who achieved CR, suggesting that disease eradication may be possible in some patients with advanced CLL.

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