|Leukemia is the cancer of white blood cells.|
Let's go over the study first. Three patients with chemotherapy resistant tumors had their blood drawn, separated, modified, and cultured. These patients underwent lymphodepleting chemotherapy, and their blood was reinjected. Endpoint assays were conducted a month after reinjection.
They did the same thing in mice, and the cells of interest were sustained for over six months, although I'm not sure whether the same monthly cycle was repeated. It doesn't say. But the cells of interest reached levels of up to 95% of white blood cells, up from 2.3-4.46% (figure 2). After an initial decay with first-order kinetics, the CART19 cell numbers stabilized between three to six months after reinjection. The fact that the cell levels were sustained after four months is at least some evidence the body can remanufacture the CART19 cells on their own.
What is most remarkable, however, is that the cells of interest seem to be able to remanufacture themselves within the body. In the third patient, flow cytometry showed that there were CAR19-expressing T cells with an absence of B cells 169 days after infusion. This is remarkable, since, "previous studies have not demonstrated robust expansion, prolonged persistence, or functional expression of CARs on T cells after infusion."
|Figure 2 from the study showing levels of CART18 cells after infusion. Click to enlarge.|
"There were no significant toxicities observed during the 4 days after the infusion in any patient other than transient febrile reactions. However, all patients subsequently developed significant clinical and laboratory toxicities between days 7 and 21 after the first infusion...With the exception of B cell aplasia, these toxicities were short-term and reversible. Of the three patients treated to date, there are two complete responses and one partial response lasting greater than 8 months after CART19 infusion according to standard criteria." The only side effect these three patients suffered was fever. One was hospitalized for a week, and another went into remission for 10 months.
In fact, "one of the preclinical rationales for developing CAR+ T cells with 4-1BB signaling domains was a projected reduced propensity to trigger IL-2 and tumor necrosis factor–α (TNF-α) secretion compared to CAR+ T cells with CD28 signaling domains (7); indeed, elevated amounts of soluble IL-2 and TNF-α were not detected in the serum of the patients." The cells infused into the patients were designed specifically to avoid a cytokine storm and to circumvent the donor's immune system.
"In our preclinical studies, we found that large tumors could be ablated and that the infusion of 2.2 × 107 CAR T cells could eradicate tumors composed of 1 × 10^9 cells, for an in vivo effector-to-target (E/T) ratio of 1:42 in humanized mice (8), although these calculations did not take into account the expansion of T cells after injection." In mice studies, billion cell tumors were ablated.
The three human patients had trillion cell tumors weighing around 1 kg before the infusion of CART19 cells. They all showed great progress, with the third patient surpassing others by 40:1. "Using the estimate of initial total tumor burden (1.3 × 1012 CLL cells) and the observation that no CLL cells were detectable after treatment, we achieved a marked 1:93,000 E/T ratio. By similar calculations, an effective E/T ratio in vivo of 1:2200 and 1:1000 was calculated for UPN 01 and 02 (table S6). Therefore, a contribution of serial killing by CART19 cells combined with in vivo CART19 expansion of >1000-fold likely contributed to the powerful antileukemic effects mediated by CART19 cells."
The trials for the three patients were financed by Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.
(the study) and MSNBC.