Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research

Potential mechanisms for thrombocytopenia development with trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1).

PMID 25370470


Trastuzumab-emtansine (T-DM1) is an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) comprising the cytotoxic agent DM1 conjugated to trastuzumab with a stable linker. Thrombocytopenia was the dose-limiting toxicity in the phase I study, and grade ≥3 thrombocytopenia occurred in up to 13% of patients receiving T-DM1 in phase III studies. We investigated the mechanism of T-DM1-induced thrombocytopenia. The effect of T-DM1 on platelet function was measured by aggregometry, and by flow cytometry to detect the markers of activation. The effect of T-DM1 on differentiation and maturation of megakaryocytes (MK) from human hematopoietic stem cells was assessed by flow cytometry and microscopy. Binding, uptake, and catabolism of T-DM1 in MKs, were assessed by various techniques including fluorescence microscopy, scintigraphy to detect T-[H(3)]-DM1 and (125)I-T-DM1, and mass spectrometry. The role of FcγRIIa was assessed using blocking antibodies and mutant constructs of trastuzumab that do not bind FcγR. T-DM1 had no direct effect on platelet activation and aggregation, but it did markedly inhibit MK differentiation via a cytotoxic effect. Inhibition occurred with DM1-containing ADCs but not with trastuzumab demonstrating a role for DM1. MKs internalized these ADCs in a HER2-independent, FcγRIIa-dependent manner, resulting in intracellular release of DM1. Binding and internalization of T-DM1 diminished as MKs matured; however, prolonged exposure of mature MKs to T-DM1 resulted in a disrupted cytoskeletal structure. These data support the hypothesis that T-DM1-induced thrombocytopenia is mediated in large part by DM1-induced impairment of MK differentiation, with a less pronounced effect on mature MKs.