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Novel Agents, CAR T Cells Reinvigorate ALL Landscape

Angelica Welch
Published: Wednesday, Apr 04, 2018

Dr Jae Park
Jae H. Park, MD
The field of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has experienced a wave of new agents, with the approval of 3 novel therapies in the past year alone.

In July 2017, the FDA granted a full approval to blinatumomab (Blincyto) for the treatment of adults and children with relapsed/refractory B-cell precursor ALL, regardless of Philadelphia chromosome (Ph) status. Blinatumomab was then granted an accelerated approval in March 2018 for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with B-cell precursor ALL who are in remission but still have minimal residual disease (MRD).

Inotuzumab ozogamicin (Besponsa) was approved in August 2017 for the treatment of adults with relapsed/refractory B-cell precursor ALL, and a milestone moment also came in August 2017, when the FDA issued an approval for the first chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy—tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) for the treatment of patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor ALL that is refractory or in second or later relapse.

During his presentation at the 2018 OncLive® State of the Science Summit™ on Hematologic Malignancies, Jae H. Park, MD, an assistant attending physician in the Leukemia Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, discussed novel therapies for patients with ALL. In an interview during the meeting, Park shared his insight on the impact of agents such as blinatumomab, inotuzumab ozogamicin, and tisagenlecleucel.

OncLive: Please provide an overview of your presentation.

Park: I spoke about some of the novel therapy options for adult patents with ALL. I reviewed some of the data published in the last couple years using immunotherapy, such as bispecific antibodies like blinatumomab; antibody-drug conjugates, such as inotuzumab ozogamicin; and CD19-targeted CAR T cells.

I also reviewed some additional data from the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting. There were not a lot of updated clinical trial data, but since the meeting, there have been new publications proving the efficacy and long-term durability of using CD19-targeted CAR T cells. I ended the lecture on where the field is going using these novel therapeutic approaches in the treatment of patients with ALL.

How has the success of CAR T-cell therapy impacted the landscape?

CAR T-cell therapy has transformed the therapeutic options for patients with ALL, but there is still lot more work that needs to be done. However, what has been proven and confirmed through multiple clinical trials is the high efficacy and achieving initial CR rates in the range of 80% to 90% in previously heavily treated patients who are chemorefractory, relapsed, or have undergone transplant. This is what led to the approval of tisagenlecleucel for patients with ALL. These patients would typically not have a lot of options in terms of getting into a remission. 

It is not perfect; we are still dealing with side effects and what to do after relapse. There is a lot of work to be done to reduce the rate of relapse and engage long-term remission rates for these patients. The role of transplant in the setting of CAR T cells is up for question. Is transplant necessary for some of these patients? It appears so. Some patients benefit from CAR T cells as a definitive therapy, but we don't know who those patients are yet. There is ongoing work to figure out how to select patients who might not need a subsequent therapy after receiving CAR T-cell therapy.

Can you highlight the data surrounding CD19-directed therapies?

CD19-targeted CAR T cells have been generating a lot of good data for patients with ALL, both pediatrics and adults. They have been in several publications. Earlier this year, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the ELIANA trial, which reported impressive outcomes, such as high response rates that were seen in the phase II single-center studies and confirmed in multicenter global studies. [ELIANA] proved that this type of study can be done in a large-scale global trial and can replicate the data similarly to what was observed before.

Additionally, the durability of remission is similar to what has been presented previously. It is a short-term follow-up in the large scale, so we still need to see what happens to these patients after attaining remission. Relapse continues to be an issue, but not as much as compared with relapse after chemotherapy, or other available therapies such as inotuzumab ozogamicin or blinatumomab.

In adult patients, we still do not have a CD19-targeted CAR T-cell product approved for ALL. However, many clinical trials have proven efficacy in these patients. Toxicity continues to be a problem in adult patients with ALL—more so than pediatric ALL. Nonetheless, this therapy has shown to be effective. As we modify the therapy and optimize the safety and efficacy, we believe that this therapy should be approved in adult patients, as well. 

View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: 14th Annual International Symposium on Melanoma and Other Cutaneous Malignancies®Apr 30, 20192.0
Oncology Consultations®: The Advancing Role of CAR T-Cell Therapies in Hematologic MalignanciesApr 30, 20191.5
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