Science translational medicine

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

PMID 26333935


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 × 10(8) to 11 × 10(8) CTL019 cells (median, 1.6 × 10(8) 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.