Funded by the Dick Vitale Gala in Memory of John Saunders
Immunotherapy has given hope to many patients with previously incurable cancers. One of the strongest new immunotherapy techniques is CD19-targeted cell therapy. This is a method of engineering T cells from a patient to attack their own cancer. B-ALL, a type of leukemia, is the most common cancer in kids. In B-ALL, CD19-targeted cell therapy has put over 90% of relapsed patients into remission within a month of receiving these engineered T cells. One problem is that some patients’ cancers learn to hide the CD19 target that these engineered T cells see. The lack of the target allows the cancer to hide from the T cells and come back. This can happen in more than 20% of patients. With this grant, we will explore an alternative target called CD22. CD22 is on more than 90% of B-ALL cells. We will use a combination of CD19-targeted T cells and a drug called inotuzumab that attacks CD22 to prevent the cancer cells from coming back, even if they can hide the CD19 target. We will also develop T cells to target CD22. First, we will move forward with a combination approach using the CD19 cells and the CD22 drug in B-ALL patients. Later, we may use T cells against both CD19 and CD22. Currently, bone marrow transplant is the best option for kids with relapsed disease, but this comes with many risks. As we increase the number of patients remaining in long-term remission with these cell therapies, we can see a future where fewer patients need to undergo the risks of bone marrow transplant.