CARs combine a single chain variable fragment (scFv) of an antibody with intracellular signaling domains. We have previously reported on CTL019 cells expressing an anti-CD19 CAR. Infusion of these cells results in 100 to 100,000x in vivo proliferation, durable anti-tumor activity, and prolonged persistence in pts with B cell tumors, including sustained CRs in adults and children with ALL (Grupp et al., NEJM 2013, Maude et al., NEJM 2014). We now report on outcomes and longer follow up of the first 30 pts with relapsed, refractory ALL treated on our pilot trial in pediatric ALL.


T cells were lentivirally transduced with a CAR composed of anti-CD19 scFv/4-1BB/CD3ζ, activated/expanded ex-vivo with anti-CD3/anti-CD28 beads, and then infused into children with relapsed or refractory CD19+ ALL. 26/30 pts received lymphodepleting chemotherapy the week prior to CTL019 infusion. The targeted T cell dose range was 107 to 108 cells/kg with a transduction efficiency of 11-45%. T cells for manufacturing were collected from the pt regardless of prior SCT status, not allo donors.


30 children median age 10y (5-22y) with CD19+ ALL were treated. 25/30 pts had detectable disease on the day before CTL019 cell infusion, while 5 were MRD(-). A median of 3.6x106 CTL019 cells/kg (1.1-18x106/kg) were infused over 1-3 days. There were no infusional toxicities >grade 2, although 9 pts developed fevers within 24 hrs of infusion and did not receive a planned 2nd infusion of CTL019 cells. 27 pts (90%) achieved a CR, including a patient with T cell ALL aberrantly expressing CD19+. 3 did not respond. MRD measured by clinical flow cytometry was negative in 23 responding pts and positive at 0.1% (negative at 3 mo), 0.09%, 0.22%, and 1.1% in 4 pts. With median follow up 8 mo (1-26 mo), 16 pts have ongoing CR, with only 3 patients in the cohort receiving subsequent treatment such as donor lymphocyte infusion or SCT, 6-month EFS measured from infusion is 63% (95% CI, 47-84%), and OS is 78% (95% CI, 63-95%). CTL019 cells were detected in the CSF of 17/19 pts and 2 pts with CNS2a disease experienced a CR in CSF. 10 pts with a CR at 1 mo have subsequently relapsed, half with CD19(-) blasts. 2/5 pts who relapsed with CD19(-) disease had previously been refractory to CD19-directed blinatumomab and subsequently went into CR with CTL019.

All responding pts developed grade 1-4 cytokine release syndrome (CRS) at peak T cell expansion. Detailed cytokine analysis showed marked increases of IL6 and IFNγ (both up to 1000x), and IL2R. Treatment for CRS was required for hemodynamic or respiratory instability in 37% of patients and was rapidly reversed in all cases with the IL6-receptor antagonist tocilizumab, together with corticosteroids in 5 pts. Although T cells collected from the 21 pts who had relapsed after allo SCT were median 100% donor origin, no GVHD has been seen. Grade 4 CRS was strongly associated with high disease burden prior to infusion and with elevations in IL-6, ferritin (suggesting macrophage activation syndrome) and C reactive protein after infusion.

Persistence of CTL019 cells detected by flow cytometry and/or QPCR, and accompanied by B cell aplasia, continued for 1-26 months after infusion in pts with ongoing responses. QPCR showed very high levels of CTL019 proliferation, with all patients achieving peak levels >5000 copies/ug gDNA and 26 patients with peak levels >15,000 copies/ug gDNA. B cell aplasia has been treated with IVIg without significant infectious complications. Probability of 6-mo CTL019 persistence by flow was68% (95% CI, 50-92%) andrelapse-free B cell aplasia was 73% (95% CI, 57-94%).


CTL019 cells can undergo robust in-vivo expansion and can persist for 2 years or longer in pts with relapsed ALL, allowing for the possibility of long-term disease response without subsequent therapy such as SCT. This approach also has promise as a salvage therapy for patients who relapse after allo-SCT with a low risk of GVHD. CTL019 therapy is associated with a significant CRS that responds rapidly to IL-6-targeted anti-cytokine treatment. CTL019 cells can induce potent and durable responses for patients with relapsed/refractory ALL; however, recurrence with cells that have lost CD19 is an important mechanism of CLT019 resistance. CTL019 therapy has received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the FDA in both pediatric and adult ALL, and phase II multicenter trials have been initiated.


Grupp:Novartis: Consultancy, Research Funding. Barrett:Novartis: Research Funding. Chew:Novartis: Research Funding. Lacey:Novartis: Research Funding. Levine:Novartis: Patents & Royalties, Research Funding. Melenhorst:Novartis: Research Funding. Rheingold:Novartis: Consultancy. Shen:Novartis: Employment. Wood:Novartis Pharma: Employment. Porter:Novartis: managed according to U Penn Policy Patents & Royalties, Research Funding. June:Novartis: Research Funding, Royalty income Patents & Royalties.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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