Penn discovers new, rare mechanism for ALL to relapse after CAR T cell therapy
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IMAGE: CAR T Cells ready for infusion. view more 

Credit: Penn Medicine

PHILADELPHIA – A single leukemia cell, unknowingly engineered with the leukemia-targeting chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) lentivirus and infused back into a patient, was able to reproduce and cause a deadly recurrence of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). New research from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that in one patient, the CAR lentivirus that would usually enter a T cell to teach it to hunt cancer also ended up binding with a leukemic cell. The presence of the CAR on the leukemic cell may have given that cell the ability to hide from the therapy by masking CD19, the protein that CARs target to kill cancer. Leukemic cells without CD19 are resistant to CAR T therapy, so this single cell led to the patient’s relapse. Nature Medicine published the findings today.

The treatment, developed by researchers in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), modifies patients’ own immune T cells, which are collected and reprogrammed to potentially seek and destroy the patients’ cancer cells. Once they are infused back into patients’ bodies, these newly built cells both multiply

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