Safety and tolerability of conditioning chemotherapy followed by CD19-targeted CAR T cells for relapsed/refractory CLL

JCI Insight. 2019 Apr 2;5(9):e122627. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.122627.


Background: Subgroups of patients with relapsed or refractory (R/R) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) exhibit suboptimal outcomes after standard therapies, including oral kinase inhibitors. We and others have previously reported on safety and efficacy of autologous CD19-targeted CAR T-cells for these patients; here we report safety and long-term follow-up of CAR T-cell therapy with or without conditioning chemotherapy for patients with R/R CLL and indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL).

Methods: We conducted a phase 1 clinical trial investigating CD19-targeted CAR T-cells incorporating a CD28 costimulatory domain (19-28z). Seventeen of 20 patients received conditioning chemotherapy prior to CAR T-cell infusion. Five patients with CLL received ibrutinib at the time of autologous T-cell collection and/or CAR T-cell administration.

Results: This analysis included 16 patients with R/R CLL and 4 patients with R/R indolent B-NHL. Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) was observed in all 20 patients but grades 3 and 4 CRS and neurological events were uncommon (10% for each). Ex vivo expansion of T-cells and proportions of CD4+/CD8+ CAR T-cells with CD62L+CD127+ immunophenotype were significantly greater in patients on ibrutinib at leukapheresis. Three of 12 evaluable CLL patients receiving conditioning chemotherapy achieved CR (two had minimal residual disease-negative CR). All patients achieving CR remained progression-free at median follow-up of 53 months.

Conclusion: Conditioning chemotherapy and 19-28z CAR T-cells were acceptably tolerated across investigated dose levels in heavily pretreated patients with R/R CLL and indolent B-NHL, and a subgroup of patients achieved durable CR. Ibrutinib therapy may modulate autologous T-cell phenotype.

Trial registration: NCT00466531.

Funding: Juno Therapeutics.

Keywords: Cancer immunotherapy; Clinical Trials; Immunology; Leukemias.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, CD19 / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Cytokine Release Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Cytokine Release Syndrome / immunology
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / immunology
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / mortality
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / therapy*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / immunology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / mortality
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / adverse effects
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / immunology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy*
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles / administration & dosage
  • Pyrazoles / adverse effects
  • Pyrimidines / administration & dosage
  • Pyrimidines / adverse effects
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen / immunology
  • Transplantation Conditioning / adverse effects
  • Transplantation Conditioning / methods*
  • Transplantation, Autologous / adverse effects
  • Transplantation, Autologous / methods


  • Antigens, CD19
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyrimidines
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen
  • ibrutinib
  • Adenine

Associated data