Objective: To test whether systemic cytokine release is associated with central nervous system inflammatory responses and glial injury in immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS) after chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy in children and young adults.
Methods: We performed a prospective cohort study of clinical manifestations as well as imaging, pathology, CSF, and blood biomarkers on 43 subjects ages 1 to 25 who received CD19-directed CAR/T cells for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Results: Neurotoxicity occurred in 19 of 43 (44%) subjects. Nine subjects (21%) had CTCAE grade 3 or 4 neurological symptoms, with no neurotoxicity-related deaths. Reversible delirium, headache, decreased level of consciousness, tremor, and seizures were most commonly observed. Cornell Assessment of Pediatric Delirium (CAPD) scores ≥9 had 94% sensitivity and 33% specificity for grade ≥3 neurotoxicity, and 91% sensitivity and 72% specificity for grade ≥2 neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicity correlated with severity of cytokine release syndrome, abnormal past brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and higher peak CAR-T cell numbers in blood, but not cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF levels of S100 calcium-binding protein B and glial fibrillary acidic protein increased during neurotoxicity, indicating astrocyte injury. There were concomitant increases in CSF white blood cells, protein, interferon-γ (IFNγ), interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, and granzyme B (GzB), with concurrent elevation of serum IFNγ IL-10, GzB, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, macrophage inflammatory protein 1 alpha, and tumor necrosis factor alpha, but not IL-6. We did not find direct evidence of endothelial activation.
Interpretation: Our data are most consistent with ICANS as a syndrome of systemic inflammation, which affects the brain through compromise of the neurovascular unit and astrocyte injury. ANN NEUROL 2019.
© 2019 American Neurological Association.