Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell Therapies: Optimising the Dose

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2020 Mar 16. doi: 10.1111/bcp.14281. Online ahead of print.


Lymphocytes such as T-cells can be genetically transduced to express a synthetic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that re-directs their cytotoxic activity against a tumour-expressed antigen of choice. Autologous (patient-derived) CAR T-cells have been licensed to treat certain relapsed and refractory B-cell malignancies, and numerous CAR T-cell products are in clinical development. As living gene-modified cells, CAR T-cells exhibit unique pharmacokinetics, typically proliferating within the recipient during the first 14 days after administration before contracting in number, and sometimes exhibiting long-term persistence. The relationship between CAR T-cell dose and exposure is highly variable, and may be influenced by CAR design, patient immune function at the time of T-cell harvest, phenotype of the CAR T-cell product, disease burden, lymphodepleting chemotherapy and subsequent immunomodulatory therapies. Recommended CAR T-cell doses are typically established for a specific product and indication, although for some products, stratification of dose based on disease burden may mitigate toxicity while maintaining efficacy. Re-evaluation of CAR T-cell dosing may be necessary following changes to the lymphodepleting regimen, for different disease indications, and following significant manufacturing changes, if product comparability cannot be demonstrated. Dose escalation trials have typically employed 3 + 3 designs, although this approach has limitations, and alternative phase I trial designs may facilitate the identification of CAR T-cell doses that strike an optimal balance of safety, efficacy and manufacturing feasibility.

Keywords: chimeric antigen receptor therapy; drug interactions; drug toxicity; immunologic dose-response relationship; pharmacokinetics; phase 1 clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review