Loss of CD20 expression as a mechanism of resistance to mosunetuzumab in relapsed/refractory B-cell lymphomas

Blood. 2023 Dec 4:blood.2023022348. doi: 10.1182/blood.2023022348. Online ahead of print.


CD20 is an established therapeutic target in B-cell malignancies. The CD20xCD3 bispecific antibody mosunetuzumab has significant efficacy in B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL). Since target antigen loss is a recognized mechanism of resistance, we evaluated the contribution of CD20 expression to clinical response in patients with relapsed and/or refractory NHL in the phase 1/2 GO29781 trial (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT02500407) investigating mosunetuzumab monotherapy. CD20 was studied using immunohistochemistry (IHC), RNA sequencing, and whole-exome sequencing performed centrally in biopsies collected prior to treatment, or as paired samples at pre-dose and on-treatment, or at-progression. Prior to treatment, most patients exhibited a high proportion of tumor cells expressing CD20; however, the proportion of CD20+ tumor cells in 16/293 (5.5%) patients was <10%. Analyses of paired biopsies from patients during treatment revealed that CD20 levels were maintained in 29/30 (97%), vs patients with samples at-progression, in which 11/32 (34%) showed CD20 loss. Reduced transcription or acquisition of truncating mutations explained most but not all cases of CD20 loss. In vitro modeling confirmed the effect of CD20 variants identified in clinical samples on reduction of CD20 expression and confirmed missense mutations in the extracellular domain that could block mosunetuzumab binding. This study expands knowledge about the occurrence of target antigen loss after anti-CD20 therapeutics to CD20-targeting bispecific antibodies and elucidates the underlying mechanisms for reduced CD20 expression at disease progression that may be generalizable to other anti-CD20 targeting agents. These results also establish the utility of readily-available IHC staining for CD20 as a tool to inform clinical decisions.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02500407