Abstract

The use of multiagent combination chemotherapy regimens results in cure rates of >90% for children and ∼40% for adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) but is associated with extensive toxicity and disappointingly low efficacy in relapsed patients. ALL blast cells express several surface antigens, including CD20, CD22, and CD19, which represent valuable targets for immunotherapy. Monoclonal antibodies, antibody–drug conjugates, and bispecific T-cell–engaging antibodies targeting these antigens offer novel mechanisms of action. Within the last several years, the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab has been added to chemotherapy for newly diagnosed patients <60 years with CD20+ pre-B ALL and significantly improved the 2-year event-free survival from 52% to 65%. In adults with relapsed or refractory CD22+ ALL, the antibody–drug conjugate inotuzumab ozogamicin resulted in a complete response rate of 81% and median overall survival of 7.7 months with reduced toxicity compared with standard chemotherapy. Similarly, the bispecific T-cell–engaging antibody blinatumomab yielded a complete response rate of 44% and a median overall survival of 7.7 months in an extensively treated ALL population. Moreover, ∼80% of ALL patients in complete remission with evidence of minimal residual disease (MRD) achieved a complete MRD response following treatment with blinatumomab. These results highlight the tremendous promise of antibody-based treatment approaches for ALL. Ongoing and future research is critical to further define the role of the various immunotherapies in the frontline treatment of ALL. Additional challenges include the optimal sequencing of the available antibodies in the relapsed setting as well as their integration with stem cell transplant and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy.

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