A CAR T-cell therapy known as axicabtagene ciloleucel (axi-cel) drove cancer cells to undetectable levels in nearly 80% of patients with advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in a phase 2 clinical trial, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators report at the virtual 62nd American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting.
While NHL tends to be a slow-growing disease, patients frequently relapse after standard treatment, underscoring the need for new therapies.
Axi-cel's effectiveness in trial participants who had either relapsed or become resistant to other drugs is especially encouraging, according to investigators.
"We were very impressed with the magnitude of the responses, and also the durability," said Dana-Farber's Caron Jacobson, MD, MMSc, who led the trial and will present the findings at ASH. "This treatment has meaningfully impacted high-risk patients with these diseases. I was also struck early on by how favourable the safety profile was compared to what we've been seeing in the fast-growing lymphomas."
Axi-cel is made by collecting some of a patient's disease-fighting T cells and genetically altering them to deploy a specialised receptor on their surface.
The receptor enables the modified T cells - called chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR T cells - to latch onto cancer cells and destroy them.
The CAR T cells are then infused into the patient.
In previous trials in patients with large B cell lymphoma, the therapy reduced cancer cells below detectable levels, achieving a "complete response," in many patients.
In the current trial, dubbed ZUMA-5, investigators administered axi-cel to 146 patients with follicular lymphoma or marginal zone lymphoma - two slow-growing forms of non-Hodgkin leukaemia - at multiple U.S. medical centres.
All the participants had active lymphoma despite undergoing multiple previous treatments.
A median of 17.5 months after treatment with axi-cel, 92% of the trial participants had an objective response - a detectable reduction in their cancer - and 76% had a complete response.
At the cutoff date for data collection, responses continued in 62% of all treated patients.
Almost all patients experienced adverse side effects, with 86% experiencing adverse events of grade 3 or higher.
Seven percent experienced grade 3 or higher cytokine release syndrome and 19% experienced grade 3 or higher neurologic events.
Response rates were slightly higher and adverse effect rates were slightly lower for patients with follicular lymphoma than for those with marginal zone lymphoma.
Source: Dana-Farber Cancer Center
We are an independent charity and are not backed by a large company or society. We raise every penny ourselves to improve the standards of cancer care through education. You can help us continue our work to address inequalities in cancer care by making a donation.
Any donation, however small, contributes directly towards the costs of creating and sharing free oncology education.
Together we can get better outcomes for patients by tackling global inequalities in access to the results of cancer research.
Thank you for your support.