From the Journals

Groups release guidelines for CAR T treatment in children



The Food and Drug Administration approved the first two CAR T-cell therapies in the United States in 2017: Novartis’ tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) for children and young adults with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia and later for adults with large B-cell lymphoma; and axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta), sold by Gilead, for adults with large B-cell lymphoma. The therapies involve reengineering a patient’s T cells such that they recognize the threat of cancer, and then introducing them back into the body. The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use in June recommended granting marketing authorization to these drugs.

In the new pediatric guidelines, Dr. Mahadeo and his colleagues noted the use of CAR T-cell therapies for treatment of solid tumors and other malignancies in children already “is being explored.” “Moreover, consideration of earlier or upfront use of CAR T-cell therapy might spare patients the acute and long-term toxicities associated with traditional chemotherapy and/or radiation regimens,” they wrote.

Dr. Helen Heslop, professor of medicine and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston

Dr. Helen Heslop

There’s been great interest in learning how to most safely use the CAR T cell therapies, said Helen Heslop, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine.

She pointed to a 2014 publication in the journal Blood from Daniel W. Lee and his colleagues as an earlier example of this research. By now, cancer centers will have worked out their own procedures for pediatric use of CAR T therapies, hewing to standards set by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), Dr. Heslop said.

Dr. Heslop also stressed the role of the FDA in requiring risk evaluation and management strategy programs for these drugs. All of this, including the new guidelines from Dr. Mahadeo and his colleagues, is part of a growing body of research into safe use of CAR T therapies, Dr. Heslop said.

“It’s an active area of research,” she said. “Most centers will look at all of it and then develop what works best in their own individual center for providing the best care for the patients.”

The newly published guidelines could prove an “important contribution” to managing the risk of CAR T therapies, Phyllis I. Warkentin, MD, chief medical officer for FACT, said in an interview, while stressing that they were not more or less important than other similar efforts. Physicians learning how to use the CAR T therapies may welcome new input, as most of what’s been published has been about adults, she said.

“You don’t have the luxury of a lot of time to be learning on the job, so to speak,” with CAR T therapies, she said. “Many of the toxicities are fairly severe and fairly sudden.”

Dr. Heslop has been on advisory board for Gilead and Novartis. Dr. Warkentin and Dr. Mahadeo each reported having no financial disclosures. Other authors of the guidelines paper reported a patent with applications in the field of gene-modified T cell therapy for cancer, as well as financial ties to Cellectis, NexImmune, Torque Pharma, Kite Pharma (a Gilead company), Poseida Therapeutics, Celgene, Novartis, and Unum Therapeutics.

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