Efficacy of checkpoint inhibition after CAR-T failure in aggressive B-cell lymphomas: outcomes from 15 US institutions

Blood Adv. 2023 Aug 22;7(16):4528-4538. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2023010016.


Checkpoint inhibitor (CPI) therapy with anti-PD-1 antibodies has been associated with mixed outcomes in small cohorts of patients with relapsed aggressive B-cell lymphomas after CAR-T failure. To define CPI therapy efficacy more definitively in this population, we retrospectively evaluated clinical outcomes in a large cohort of 96 patients with aggressive B-cell lymphomas receiving CPI therapy after CAR-T failure across 15 US academic centers. Most patients (53%) had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, were treated with axicabtagene ciloleucel (53%), relapsed early (≤180 days) after CAR-T (83%), and received pembrolizumab (49%) or nivolumab (43%). CPI therapy was associated with an overall response rate of 19% and a complete response rate of 10%. Median duration of response was 221 days. Median progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were 54 and 159 days, respectively. Outcomes to CPI therapy were significantly improved in patients with primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma. PFS (128 vs 51 days) and OS (387 vs 131 days) were significantly longer in patients with late (>180 days) vs early (≤180 days) relapse after CAR-T. Grade ≥3 adverse events occurred in 19% of patients treated with CPI. Most patients (83%) died, commonly because of progressive disease. Only 5% had durable responses to CPI therapy. In the largest cohort of patients with aggressive B-cell lymphoma treated with CPI therapy after CAR-T relapse, our results reveal poor outcomes, particularly among those relapsing early after CAR-T. In conclusion, CPI therapy is not an effective salvage strategy for most patients after CAR-T, where alternative approaches are needed to improve post-CAR-T outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen