Review Article | Published:

Treating B-cell cancer with T cells expressing anti-CD19 chimeric antigen receptors

Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology volume 10, pages 267276 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Most B-cell malignancies express CD19, and a majority of patients with B-cell malignancies are not cured by current standard therapies. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are fusion proteins consisting of antigen recognition moieties and T-cell activation domains. T cells can be genetically modified to express CARs, and adoptive transfer of anti-CD19 CAR T cells is now being tested in clinical trials. Effective clinical treatment with anti-CD19 CAR T cells was first reported in 2010 after a patient with advanced-stage lymphoma treated at the NCI experienced a partial remission of lymphoma and long-term eradication of normal B cells. Additional patients have subsequently obtained long-term remissions of advanced-stage B-cell malignancies after infusions of anti-CD19 CAR T cells. Long-term eradication of normal CD19+ B cells from patients receiving infusions of anti-CD19 CAR T cells demonstrates the potent antigen-specific activity of these T cells. Some patients treated with anti-CD19 CAR T cells have experienced acute adverse effects, which were associated with increased levels of serum inflammatory cytokines. Although anti-CD19 CAR T cells are at an early stage of development, the potent antigen-specific activity observed in patients suggests that infusions of anti-CD19 CAR T cells might become a standard therapy for some B-cell malignancies.

Key points

  • T cells can be genetically modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which are fusion proteins made up of antigen-recognition moieties and T-cell activation domains

  • CD19 is a suitable target for CAR T cells because it is expressed by B-cell malignancies, but not by normal essential tissues

  • Depleting endogenous lymphocytes by administering chemotherapy or radiotherapy before infusions of adoptively transferred T cells enhances the in vivo activity of the T cells

  • Patients have achieved complete remissions during clinical trials of anti-CD19 CAR T cells; however, acute toxicities associated with elevated serum levels of inflammatory cytokines were noted in trials

  • Evidence for biological activity is provided by long-term depletion of CD19+ normal B cells from several patients receiving infusions of anti-CD19 CAR T cells

  • Adoptive transfer of anti-CD19 CAR T cells is a potent new form of immunotherapy that has the potential to become an important therapy option for some advanced-stage B-cell malignancies

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by intramural funding of the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH, USA.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch,

    • James N. Kochenderfer
  2. Surgery Branch, National Cancer Institute, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

    • Steven A. Rosenberg

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Contributions

Both authors researched data for the article and made a substantial contribution to the discussion of the content. J. N. Kochenderfer wrote the article, and both authors revised and edited it before submission.

Competing interests

Kite Pharma has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to support research in the Surgery Branch, NCI, to develop cell transfer therapies involving the genetic engineering of lymphocytes.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James N. Kochenderfer.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nrclinonc.2013.46