For Younger Patients, CAR T-Cell Therapy Could Play a Role in CLL Treatment

In an interview, Dr. Matthew Davids of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discusses the future of CAR T-Cell therapy in the treatment of younger patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

While there are risks involved with CAR T-cell therapy, it could become a more popular therapy choice for younger patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) compared to bone marrow transplant, which can be even more difficult to tolerate, says Dr. Matthew Davids of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In an interview with CURE®, Davids explained that younger patients with CLL, particularly those with more high-risk disease who have relapsed despite a number of previous treatments, could find CAR T-cell therapy treatment a more tolerable option than the standard of allogeneic transplantation.

By harnessing and reprogramming the body’s own cells to fight cancer, CAR T-cell therapy has had success in a number of other cancer types in the past decade or so, Davids noted. And while it’s not currently approved for use in CLL, it is being examined in various combinations that could prove successful down the road.


One other thing that comes to mind as we think about where the field is headed in the future is that we've seen some early but promising data for CAR T-cell based therapies. This is using the patient's own T lymphocyte cells, educating them outside the body and then reinfusing them to try to have a sustained response to CLL.

And although this is not yet an FDA approved treatment in CLL, I think it's showing promise. I think about it for my younger patients, particularly those who have maybe been through a few lines of CLL treatment already, particularly if they have very high-risk disease like the TP53 deletion or mutation. You know, currently, those are patients we think about bone marrow transplant, allogeneic transplantation for, but that certainly has some very serious risks. And even though CAR T-cell therapy also has risks, I think, in general, the toxicity profile is more favorable than allogeneic transplantation.

We've started to see some patients with very long-term remissions now from CAR T. So I'm excited to see the how that field evolves in the coming years. There are people exploring various combinations of different drugs with CAR T. And so, I think the technology and the combination therapies will improve over time. And so I do think that for younger patients who have a long time horizon, that could eventually be an approved option to think about down the road.