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Trial finds new CAR T-cell therapy is effective at killing cancer cells

Published on 10/01/22 at 11:12am

A Phase I clinical trial funded by the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme, and supported by the NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), has tested a new CAR T-cell therapy in patients for the treatment of adults with relapsed B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL). This group has previously had few treatment options available.

There is currently no approved ‘curative’ treatment available for adult patients with relapsed B-ALL. Current treatment is with chemotherapy and the prognosis for these patients is poor.

In the trial, 20 adult patients with relapsed B-ALL had their T-cells genetically modified to target their cancer cells. Early stage research suggests a new version of an immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy has fewer toxic side effects and is effective for longer. CAR T-cell therapy works through programming immune T-cells specifically, to target cancer cells. 

To overcome the limitations of current CAR T-cell therapies, the new therapy was designed to bind leukemic cells less tightly and for shorter periods of time than other T-cell therapies.

“The immune system can become over-activated by the therapy causing a toxic reaction called ‘cytokine release syndrome’. Another consequence of this over-activation is that the engineered T-cells become immunologically exhausted and no longer persist in the patient’s body. This can allow the cancer to relapse,” shared Chief Investigator Professor Karl Peggs, Director of the Sir Naim Dangoor Centre for Cellular Immunotherapy at UCLH. “These problems are particularly difficult in adults with relapsed B-ALL and consequently there is no licensed CAR T-cell therapy for adults for this type of cancer.”

“This new type of CD19 CAR is designed for faster interactions with cancerous cells,” Trial investigator, Associate Professor at UCL Cancer Institute and consultant haematologist at UCLH, Dr Claire Roddie, said. “The results show that the new design allows for the safe treatment with CAR T-Cell therapy to adult patients with relapsed B-ALL. Moreover, this treatment may allow patients to have long-term remissions with no other treatment.”

Ana Ovey

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