Funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb
Cancer therapy has undergone a revolution in recent years as a result of the success of several immunotherapies, providing hope to patients with once-thought incurable cancers. One of the most powerful technologies is engineered T cell therapy. By reprogramming a T cell, a type of immune cell, to recognize and kill a cancerous cell, we have seen remissions in over 90% of children and young adults with very resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Because T cells are living cells, they have the potential to last in the body for months or years and may provide long-term disease control. While most of these remissions are long-lasting, with 60% of responding patients still in remission at 1 year, relapse remains the key mode of treatment failure. One of the reasons for relapse is short lifespan of the engineered T cells in some patients. In this study, we will ask why T cells live many months to years in some patients while they live only weeks to a few months in others. We will use this information to open a clinical trial to test the combination of engineered T cells with a medication to augment T cell function. As we improve on the percentage of long-term remissions, we hope to not only increase the chance of cure but also reduce the number of patients who require intensive therapies, including bone marrow transplant.