New ‘armored’ CAR therapy produces significant responses in cancer patients

For patients whose cancers don't respond to current CAR T cell therapies, a new, modified CAR T cell therapy by Penn’s Carl June shows promise in a phase 1 clinical trial.

While CAR T cell therapy has revolutionized treatment for many blood cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), many patients who receive CAR T cell therapy do not experience a long-term remission. For those whose cancers return or become resistant after CAR T cell therapy, the prognosis is poor, with few options left.

Car T cell therapy.
Image: iStock/tiratus phaesuwan

A new “armored” form of CAR T cell therapy, developed by Carl June, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy at the Perelman School of Medicine, may be able to help these patients. According to the results of a Phase I clinical trial, the new CAR T is safe, and has a three-month overall response rate of 80% in 20 patients with NHL whose cancers relapsed or had stopped responding to treatment after receiving a commercially available CAR T cell therapy.

“By the time we treat someone with commercially available FDA-approved CAR T cell therapies, they’ve already tried at least one other treatment that either didn’t work at all or their lymphoma relapsed, and they’re very hopeful that CAR T cell therapy—which has made such a difference for so many—will work for them too,” says Jakub Svoboda, an associate professor of hematology-oncology, who led the clinical trial at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.

“We’ve likened this CAR T to an armored truck or tank because the release of IL 18 further protects the CAR T cells and promotes their ability to attack the cancer cells,” says June, whose pioneering research led to the first approved CAR T cell therapy in 2017.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.