From the Journals

CAR T-cell therapy may worsen mental health in some patients



Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is generally associated with good long-term neuropsychiatric status, based on a recent patient-reported outcomes study.

But almost one out of five patients may have notably worse cognitive and psychiatric outcomes within 1-5 years of therapy, reported Julia Ruark, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues. According to Dr. Ruark and associates, this latter finding suggests that CAR T-cell therapy may negatively impact mental health in a subset of patients.

These findings provide clinical insight into a minimally researched patient population.

“At this time, only limited data are available regarding the long-term effects of CAR T-cell therapy,” the investigators wrote in Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. “Thus, it is important to evaluate the late neuropsychiatric effects of CAR T and evaluate their effect on survivors’ quality of life.”

The study involved 40 patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Before undergoing CAR T-cell therapy, patients underwent standardized mental health screening with validated instruments such as the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale. At least 1 year after CAR T-cell therapy, patients completed a questionnaire consisting of the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Scale v1.2 Global Health and the PROMIS-29 Profile v2.1, and 30 additional questions, 4 of which evaluated cognitive function. These data were converted to T scores for comparative purposes.

Patients who underwent CAR T-cell therapy had statistically similar T scores to the general population mean, suggesting comparable overall neuropsychiatric status. However, a closer look at the data showed that almost one out of five patients who underwent CAR T-cell therapy had global mental health scores that were at least 1 standard deviation lower than the mean for the general population and patients with cancer.

Almost half of the patients (47.5%) who underwent CAR T-cell therapy reported at least one clinically meaningful negative neuropsychiatric outcome. Specifically, 20% reported cognitive difficulties and depression or anxiety, 17.5% reported cognitive difficulties without depression or anxiety, and 10% reported depression or anxiety without cognitive difficulties. One-quarter (25%) of patients reported taking a medication for depression, 20% reported use of anxiolytics, and 15% reported use of sleep medications. Multivariate analysis revealed an association between younger age and depression (P = .01), anxiety (P = .001), and worse long-term global mental health (P = .02). Cognitive difficulties were significantly more common among patients with worse physical and/or mental health.

“[A] subset of patients may experience psychiatric symptoms or cognitive impairment [which may be related to CAR T-cell therapy or other treatments patients have been exposed to], and it is important to identify those patients to assist with intervention strategies,” the investigators concluded.The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Life Science Discovery Fund, Juno Therapeutics/Celgene, and others. The investigators reported additional relationships with Nektar Therapeutics, Allogene Therapeutics, T-CURX, and others.

SOURCE: Ruark J et al. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2019 Oct 9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2019.09.037.

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