A team led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Jae Park followed 53 adults with relapsed B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia who were treated with CD19-specific CAR-T cells for median follow-up of 29 months. They report in the New England Journal of Medicine that 83 percent of the patients experienced a complete remission.
The researchers also found that the patients with the lowest disease burden at treatment had a median event-free survival of 10.6 months and a median overall survival of 20.1 months, while those with a higher disease burden were more likely to experience cytokine release syndrome and neurotoxic events as well as have shorter long-term survival, a median event-free survival of 5.3 months and a median overall survival of 12.4 months.
Park tells Time that their findings support the notion of giving patients CAR-T therapy earlier, before their disease burden becomes too high, perhaps after a round or two of chemotherapy. "Rather than wait until people fail on other treatments, and use CAR T cell therapy to rescue them, we want to be there before they fail so they don't have to be rescued," he says.