Blinatumomab, a bispecific antibody that directs CD3+ T cells to CD19+ tumor cells, shows variable efficacy in B-progenitor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). To determine tumor-intrinsic and -extrinsic determinants of response, we studied 44 adults with relapsed or refractory B-ALL (including 2 minimal residual disease positive) treated with blinatumomab using bulk tumor and single-cell sequencing. The overall response rate in patients with hematological disease was 55%, with a high response rate in those with CRLF2-rearranged Philadelphia chromosome-like ALL (12 [75%] of 16). Pretreatment samples of responders exhibited a tumor-intrinsic transcriptomic signature of heightened immune response. Multiple mechanisms resulted in loss of CD19 expression, including CD19 mutations, CD19-mutant allele-specific expression, low CD19 RNA expression, and mutations in CD19 signaling complex member CD81. Patients with low hypodiploid ALL were prone to CD19- relapse resulting from aneuploidy-mediated loss of the nonmutated CD19 allele. Increased expression of a CD19 isoform with intraexonic splicing of exon 2, CD19 ex2part, at baseline or during therapy was associated with treatment failure. These analyses demonstrate both tumor-intrinsic and -extrinsic factors influence blinatumomab response. We show that CD19 mutations are commonly detected in CD19- relapse during blinatumomab treatment. Identification of the CD19 ex2part splice variant represents a new biomarker predictive of blinatumomab therapy failure.
© 2021 by The American Society of Hematology.