From the Journals

CAR T-cell therapy found safe, effective for HIV-associated lymphoma



HIV positivity does not preclude chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for patients with aggressive lymphoma, a report of two cases suggests. Both of the HIV-positive patients, one of whom had long-term psychiatric comorbidity, achieved durable remission on axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta) without undue toxicity.

HIV-1: Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 buds from a cultured lymphocyte. Cynthia Goldsmith, CDC

HIV-1: Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 buds from a cultured lymphocyte.

“To our knowledge, these are the first reported cases of CAR T-cell therapy administered to HIV-infected patients with lymphoma,” Jeremy S. Abramson, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston and his colleagues wrote in Cancer. “Patients with HIV and AIDS, as well as those with preexisting mental illness, should not be considered disqualified from CAR T-cell therapy and deserve ongoing studies to optimize efficacy and safety in this population.”

The Food and Drug Administration has approved two CAR T-cell products that target the B-cell antigen CD19 for the treatment of refractory lymphoma. But their efficacy and safety in HIV-positive patients are unknown because this group has been excluded from pivotal clinical trials.

Dr. Abramson and coauthors detail the two cases of successful anti-CD19 CAR T-cell therapy with axicabtagene ciloleucel in patients with HIV-associated, refractory, high-grade B-cell lymphoma.

The first patient was an HIV-positive man with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) of germinal center B-cell subtype who was intermittently adherent to antiretroviral therapy. His comorbidities included posttraumatic stress disorder and schizoaffective disorder.

Previous treatments for DLBCL included dose-adjusted etoposide, prednisone, vincristine, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and rituximab (EPOCH-R), and rituximab, ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide (RICE). A recurrence precluded high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell support.

With close multidisciplinary management, including psychiatric consultation, the patient became a candidate for CAR T-cell therapy and received axicabtagene ciloleucel. He experienced grade 2 cytokine release syndrome and grade 3 neurologic toxicity, both of which resolved with treatment. Imaging showed complete remission at approximately 3 months that was sustained at 1 year. Additionally, he had an undetectable HIV viral load and was psychiatrically stable.

The second patient was a man with AIDS-associated, non–germinal center B-cell, Epstein-Barr virus–positive DLBCL who was adherent to antiretroviral therapy. His lymphoma had recurred rapidly after initially responding to dose-adjusted EPOCH-R and then was refractory to combination rituximab and lenalidomide. He previously had hepatitis B virus, cytomegalovirus, and Mycobacterium avium complex infections.

Because of prolonged cytopenias and infectious complications after the previous lymphoma treatments, the patient was considered a poor candidate for high-dose chemotherapy. He underwent CAR T-cell therapy with axicabtagene ciloleucel and had a complete remission on day 28. Additionally, his HIV infection remained well controlled.

“Although much remains to be learned regarding CAR T-cell therapy in patients with refractory hematologic malignancies, with or without HIV infection, the cases presented herein demonstrate that patients with chemotherapy-refractory, high-grade B-cell lymphoma can successfully undergo autologous CAR T-cell manufacturing, and subsequently can safely tolerate CAR T-cell therapy and achieve a durable complete remission,” the researchers wrote. “These cases have further demonstrated the proactive, multidisciplinary care required to navigate a patient with high-risk lymphoma through CAR T-cell therapy with attention to significant medical and psychiatric comorbidities.”

Dr. Abramson reported that he has acted as a paid member of the scientific advisory board and as a paid consultant for Kite Pharma, which markets Yescarta, and several other companies.

SOURCE: Abramson JS et al. Cancer. 2019 Sep 10. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32411.

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