We assessed tumor-intrinsic factors driving clinical failures of anti-CD19 CAR T cells through whole-genome sequencing.
Distinct mutational processes, complex structural variants, and deletion of RHOA associated with CAR-19 resistance and early progression.
CD19-directed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-19) T cells are groundbreaking immunotherapies approved for use against large B-cell lymphomas. Although host inflammatory and tumor microenvironmental markers associate with efficacy and resistance, the tumor-intrinsic alterations underlying these phenomena remain undefined. CD19 mutations associate with resistance but are uncommon, and most patients with relapsed disease retain expression of the wild-type receptor, implicating other genomic mechanisms. We therefore leveraged the comprehensive resolution of whole-genome sequencing to assess 51 tumor samples from 49 patients with CAR-19–treated large B-cell lymphoma. We found that the pretreatment presence of complex structural variants, APOBEC mutational signatures, and genomic damage from reactive oxygen species predict CAR-19 resistance. In addition, the recurrent 3p21.31 chromosomal deletion containing the RHOA tumor suppressor was strongly enriched in patients for whom CAR T-cell therapy failed. Pretreatment reduced expression or monoallelic loss of CD19 did not affect responses, suggesting CAR-19 therapy success and resistance are related to multiple mechanisms. Our study showed that tumor-intrinsic genomic alterations are key among the complex interplay of factors that underlie CAR-19 efficacy and resistance for large B-cell lymphomas.