Safety, efficacy and determinants of response of allogeneic CD19-specific CAR-NK cells in CD19+ B cell tumors: a phase 1/2 trial

Nat Med. 2024 Mar;30(3):772-784. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02785-8. Epub 2024 Jan 18.


There is a pressing need for allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-immune cell therapies that are safe, effective and affordable. We conducted a phase 1/2 trial of cord blood-derived natural killer (NK) cells expressing anti-CD19 chimeric antigen receptor and interleukin-15 (CAR19/IL-15) in 37 patients with CD19+ B cell malignancies. The primary objectives were safety and efficacy, defined as day 30 overall response (OR). Secondary objectives included day 100 response, progression-free survival, overall survival and CAR19/IL-15 NK cell persistence. No notable toxicities such as cytokine release syndrome, neurotoxicity or graft-versus-host disease were observed. The day 30 and day 100 OR rates were 48.6% for both. The 1-year overall survival and progression-free survival were 68% and 32%, respectively. Patients who achieved OR had higher levels and longer persistence of CAR-NK cells. Receiving CAR-NK cells from a cord blood unit (CBU) with nucleated red blood cells ≤ 8 × 107 and a collection-to-cryopreservation time ≤ 24 h was the most significant predictor for superior outcome. NK cells from these optimal CBUs were highly functional and enriched in effector-related genes. In contrast, NK cells from suboptimal CBUs had upregulation of inflammation, hypoxia and cellular stress programs. Finally, using multiple mouse models, we confirmed the superior antitumor activity of CAR/IL-15 NK cells from optimal CBUs in vivo. These findings uncover new features of CAR-NK cell biology and underscore the importance of donor selection for allogeneic cell therapies. identifier: NCT03056339 .

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Clinical Trial, Phase I

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD19
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects
  • Interleukin-15
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms*
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen* / genetics


  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen
  • Interleukin-15
  • Antigens, CD19
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing

Associated data