Purpose of review: Genetically engineered T cells expressing a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) targeting specific antigens present on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) blasts have generated promising results in children and adults with relapsed and refractory disease. We review the current evidence for CAR-T cell therapy in ALL, associated toxicities, and efforts to improve durable response to therapy.
Recent findings: CD19-directed CAR-T cells have recently been approved by the FDA for use in children and young adults with ALL and in adults with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in the relapsed/refractory setting. CD22-directed CAR-T cells have shown efficacy against leukemia as well in a recent clinical trial, representing the first alternative CAR target to approach comparable efficacy to CD19 CAR-T cells. Standardization of toxicity grading and management, strategies to combat significant relapse rates after CAR-T therapy, and applicability of CAR-T cells to treat central nervous system (CNS) disease remain challenges in the field and represent priorities for continued research. CAR-T cells are a feasible, effective, and rapidly evolving therapy for patients with relapsed and refractory B cell malignancies.
Keywords: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; CNS leukemia; Chimeric antigen receptor; Cytokine release syndrome; Immunotherapy; Neurotoxicity.