Revised CAR-T therapy eliminates dangerous cytokine release syndrome in lymphoma trial

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Lymphoma picture by Gabriel Caponetti

Autologous CAR-T treatments for leukemia and lymphoma have offered new hope for patients, but the cell therapies can cause a dangerous immune reaction called cytokine release syndrome (CRS). Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have designed a new type of CAR-T therapy to eliminate that side effect.

CRS is a systemic inflammatory response that can be a life threatening side effect of various cancer and immune therapies. Unfortunately, newer cellular medicine approaches such as CAR-T therapy, which multiply the body’s natural defensive systems, also carry a risk for this complication.

In a trial with 25 lymphoma patients, researchers at USC showed that the redesigned therapy produced no serious side effects, and 6 of the 25 patients went into complete remission.

A safer CAR variant ( CD19-BBZ(86) ) was discovered at USC, which was found to produce lower levels of cytokines in mice, yet had the same effectiveness as previous CAR-T approaches. This report marks the first use of the CAR variant in humans.

Researchers tested multiple dose levels, and the 6 patients that achieved full remission received the highest dose. Patients receiving a lower dose had partial remission, or a short lasting remission.

Thanks to EurekAlert! for the story. You can find USC’s press release on their site here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/uosc-aic041619.php