B-cell aplasia CD19, the cell surface marker that directs CTL019 cells to target tumor cells, is also present on normal, nonmalignant B cells. As a result, CTL019 therapy targets and destroys these normal B cells as well as the leukemic cells, causing B-cell aplasia.36 Other researchers have also reported an association between CD19 CAR T-cell persistence and B-cell aplasia in patients with ALL, DLBCL, and CLL.16,19,23,27

In the most recent analysis of CTL019 in patients with r/r ALL, no serious infections or complications were observed as a result of B-cell aplasia12; however, because B cells produce antibodies, patients who undergo CTL019 therapy often require intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) replacement therapy, with administration based on local guidelines. During the consent process for CTL019, patients are made aware they might require IVIG infusions due to B-cell aplasia. IVIG infusions are usually administered in the outpatient setting by an infusion nurse. The side effects are reviewed with the patient prior to IVIG therapy. Patients know to immediately report any symptoms of infection to their physician and to have their immunoglobulin levels routinely checked. In clinical trials in which CAR T-cells persist for a shorter duration, concomitant B-cell aplasia is less of a concern; however, long-term B-cell aplasia may be associated with long-term tumor surveillance.

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Although CAR T-cell therapy is not without the potential for serious adverse events, the response rates achieved in patients who had exhausted most other therapies are encouraging, and not often seen in these patient populations. As CAR T-cell therapies continue to be studied, treatment protocols will improve, as will the CAR technology itself. Follow-up remains relatively short and number of patients treated is limited, but the potency of CAR T-cell therapy suggests this treatment strategy will become an important consideration in the management of patients with r/r B cell malignancies.


Financial support for medical editorial assistance was provided by Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The authors thank Matthew Hoelzle, PhD, for his assistance with this manuscript. They also thank Dr David Porter, MD, and Heather DiFilippo, MSN, CRNP from the University of Pennsylvania for their assistance.


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