Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a disease with high unmet medical need. Standard induction chemotherapy can lead to complete remission in patients with a favorable genetic risk profile; however, about half of patients are ineligible for this intensive regimen. In those patients with a non-favorable genetic risk profile, the preferred treatment strategy is allogeneic stem cell transfer, but the majority of patients are ineligible due to age and other comorbidities.

FLT3 is a receptor tyrosine kinase that induces cell growth in myeloid progenitor cells. Activating mutations in FLT3 have been identified in approximately 30% of AML patients. Expression of mutant FLT3 and overexpression of wild type FLT3 are associated with poor prognosis in AML, leading to clinical investigation of targeted FLT3 inhibitors, including midostaurin which was recently approved for patients with newly diagnosed FLT3-mutant AML. These inhibitors are likely to be effective only in certain patient subpopulations and may ultimately give rise to acquired resistance. To drive cures in AML, effective therapies for broad patient populations that can eliminate residual disease are needed.

Bispecific T cell engaging antibody constructs (BiTE®) are a class of immunotherapy agents which redirect T lymphocytes to a specific antigen expressed on tumor cells. Blinatumomab, a BiTE® containing a single chain variable fragment (scFv) that binds CD19 on B lymphocytes and an scFv that binds CD3 on T lymphocytes, has shown clinical efficacy for treating CD19-positive hematological malignancies such as ALL. To extend the serum half-life, next generation BiTE® antibody constructs have been modified to contain Fc-moieties, allowing for weekly dosing.

To evaluate FLT3 as a BiTE® target in AML, we assessed expression of FLT3 on primary AML patient blasts using flow cytometry. Over 83% of AML patients (n = 192) were FLT3-positive (MFI ratio > 1.5) with similar expression in bulk and leukemic stem cells. A half-life extended FLT3 BiTE® (FLT3 HLE BITE®) was generated and evaluated in vitro as well as in vivo in a mouse xenograft tumor model and non-human primates (NHP). FLT3 HLE BiTE® had subnanomolar binding affinity for human FLT3 and nanomolar binding affinity for human CD3 and NHP FLT3 and CD3. In cytotoxic assays targeting human AML cell lines, FLT3 HLE BiTE® exhibited picomolar efficacy using as effector cells human pan T cells in a 10:1 E:T ratio (range: 2 to 10 pM) or NHP PBMCs in a 5:1 E:T ratio (range: 30 to 80 pM). In mice injected with FLT3-positive MOLM13 cells and human CD3-positive T cells, FLT3 HLE BiTE® induced robust anti-tumor activity and extended survival ≥ 2-fold at all doses (n = 10 per group, p ≤ 0.0015). Following a single 5 µg/kg dose in NHP (n=2), FLT3 HLE BiTE® exhibited a reproducible pharmacokinetic profile with a 66 hour half-life. In this study, we observed hallmarks of BiTE® activation such as induction of IL-6 and MCP-1 and indication of a pharmacodynamic effect through increased soluble FLT3 ligand. Following repeat-dosing with FLT3 HLE BiTE®, digital droplet PCR was used to measure FLT3 transcript in NHP blood and bone marrow. Robust depletion of FLT3+ cells was observed in both NHP blood (≥ 95% reduction) and bone marrow (≥ 68% reduction) at all doses (5 µg/kg, 25 µg/kg, 75 µg/kg, n = 3/group). Taken together, FLT3 HLE BiTE® has potent in vitro and in vivo activity and may provide therapeutic benefit to AML patients.


Goldstein: Amgen: Employment. Henn: Amgen Research (Munich) GmbH: Employment, Equity Ownership. Archibeque: Amgen: Employment. Frank: Amgen Inc.: Employment, Equity Ownership. Balazs: Amgen Inc.: Employment, Equity Ownership. Dahlhoff: Amgen Research (Munich): Employment, Equity Ownership. Raum: Amgen Research (Munich): Employment. Li: Amgen, Inc.: Employment. Wahl: Amgen Research (Munich): Employment. Rock: Amgen, Inc.: Employment, Equity Ownership. Thomas: Amgen Research (Munich): Employment. Karbowski: Amgen, Inc.: Employment. Krupka: Amgen Research (Munich): Research Funding; Amgen, Inc: Research Funding. Subklewe: Amgen Research (Munich): Research Funding; Amgen, Inc.: Research Funding. Coxon: Amgen, Inc.: Employment. Chapman-Arvedson: Amgen, Inc.: Employment, Equity Ownership.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.