Research ArticleCancer Immunotherapy

CD19-Targeted T Cells Rapidly Induce Molecular Remissions in Adults with Chemotherapy-Refractory Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

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Science Translational Medicine  20 Mar 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 177, pp. 177ra38
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005930

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CARving a Niche for Cancer Immunotherapy

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the white blood cells that fend off infection. It’s most common in children but—as with many diseases that primarily affect children—has a much worse prognosis when it affects adults. Adults with relapsed disease have a very low chance of survival, and new therapies are desperately needed. Now, Brentjens et al. test T cells engineered to target CD19, which is expressed on both healthy B lymphocytes and B-ALL cells, in five chemotherapy-refractory adult B-ALL patients.

Here, the authors treat patients with the patients’ own T cells altered to express not only CD19 but also a fusion of the costimulatory molecule CD28 with CD3ζ chain—so-called “second-generation chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells.” All patients treated with these cells achieved tumor eradication and complete remission. These CAR T cells were well tolerated, although there was substantial cytokine release in some patients that correlated to tumor burden. These patients were treated with steroid therapy. Long-term follow-up in four of these patients was not possible because the CAR T cell therapy allowed these patients to be eligible for subsequent hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), which resulted in restored hematopoiesis. The remaining patient experienced a relapse of CD19+ cells that coincided with the lack of persistence of the CAR T cells from circulation. These data suggest that subsequent transfusions should be considered for patients unable to undergo HSCT.