CAR T-Cell Therapy Trial in Solid Tumors Halted Following 2 Patient Deaths

Tmunity Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotherapeutics company, has halted the development of its lead CAR T-cell product following the deaths of 2 patients who were enrolled to a trial investigating its use in solid tumors.

CAR T-cell therapy

Tmunity Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotherapeutics company, has halted the development of its lead CAR T-cell product following the deaths of 2 patients who were enrolled to a trial investigating its use in solid tumors.1

The patients reportedly died from immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS), which is a known adverse effect associated with CAR T-cell therapies. 

“What we are discovering is that the cytokine profiles we see in solid tumors are completely different from hematologic cancers,” Oz Azam, co-founder of Tmunity said in an interview with Endpoints News. “We observed ICANS. And we had 2 patient deaths as a result of that. We navigated the first event and obviously saw the second event, and as a result of that we have shut down the version one of that program and pivoted quickly to our second generation.”

Previously, with first-generation CAR T-cell therapies in patients with blood cancers, investigators were presented with the challenge of overcoming cytokine release syndrome. Now ICANS, or macrophage activation, is proving to have deadly effects in the realm of solid tumors. Carl June, the other co-founder of Tmunity, noted that investigators will now need to dedicate their efforts to engineering around this, as had been done with tocilizumab (Actemra) in 2012.

The company is dedicated to the development of novel approaches that produce best-in-class control over T-cell activation and direction in the body.2 The product examined in the trial was developed to utilize engineered patient cells to target prostate-specific membrane antigen; it was also designed to use a dominant TGFβ receptor to block an important checkpoint involved in cancer.

Twenty-four patients were recruited for the dose-escalating study and the company plans to release data from high-dose cohorts later in 2021.

“We are going to present all of this in a peer-reviewed publication because we want to share this with the field,” Azam said. “Because everything we’ve encountered, no matter what…people are going to encounter this when they get into the clinic, and I don’t think they’ve really understood yet because so many are preclinical companies that are not in the clinic with solid tumors. And the rubber meets the road when you get in the clinic, because the ultimate in vivo model is the human model.”

Azam added that the company plans to develop a new investigational new drug for version 2, which they hope will result in a safer product.

References

  1. Carroll J. Exclusive: Carl June’s Tmunity encounters a lethal roadblock as 2 patient deaths derail lead trial, raise red flag forcing rethink of CAR-T for solid tumors. Endpoints News. June 2, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://bit.ly/3wPYWm0
  2. Research and Development. Tmunity Therapeutics website. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://bit.ly/3fOH3OR
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