FDA Approval Summary: Tocilizumab for Treatment of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cell-Induced Severe or Life-Threatening Cytokine Release Syndrome

Oncologist. 2018 Aug;23(8):943-947. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2018-0028. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


On August 30, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Actemra (tocilizumab, Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA) for the treatment of severe or life-threatening chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell-induced cytokine release syndrome (CRS) in adults and in pediatric patients 2 years of age and older. The approval was based on a retrospective analysis of data for patients who developed CRS after treatment with CTL019 and KTE-C19 on prospective clinical trials. Evaluable patients had been treated with intravenous tocilizumab 8 mg/kg (12 mg/kg for patients <30 kg) for severe or life-threatening CRS; only the first episode of CRS was included in the analysis. The efficacy population for the CTL019 cohort included 24 male and 21 female patients (total 45 patients) of median age 12 years. The median time from the start of CRS to the first dose of tocilizumab was 4 days (range, 0-18 days). Patients were considered responders if CRS resolved within 14 days of the first dose of tocilizumab, if no more than 2 doses of tocilizumab were needed, and if no drugs other than tocilizumab and corticosteroids were used for treatment. Thirty-one patients (69%; 95% confidence interval, 53%-82%) achieved a response as defined. In an independent cohort of 15 patients with KTE-C19-induced CRS, 53% responded. Further study is needed to determine the optimal dose of tocilizumab and to confirm the safety of its use for treatment of patients with CAR T cell-induced CRS.

Implications for practice: Severe or life-threatening chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell-induced cytokine release syndrome (CRS) requires urgent treatment to prevent fatal outcomes. In two independent cohorts, the majority of patients with severe or life-threatening CAR T cell-induced CRS responded to treatment with one or two doses of tocilizumab in addition to advanced supportive care. More research is needed to determine the optimal dose and schedule of tocilizumab for treatment of CAR T cell-induced CRS.

Keywords: Chimeric antigen receptor; Cytokine release syndrome; Immunotherapy; Interleukin‐6; T cell; Tocilizumab.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / immunology*
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syndrome
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen
  • tocilizumab