24 patients suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), who had failed to respond to conventional treatment with ibrutinib for the terminal illness, were given anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy in a clinical trial of the new line of treatment being researched. The findings, published in the “Journal of Clinical Oncology,” were very encouraging with 71% of the patients experiencing partial or total remission.
The procedure on the patients, ranging in age from 40 to 73 years, involved extracting the patients’ own T-cells from their blood and modifying them to recognize the offending CD-19 on the surface of the leukemia cells. The patients were then infused with their tweaked T-cells which began a seek-and-destroy mission against the CD-19 antigen. Six months into the therapy and 17 of the 24 patients found that their tumors had shrunk or disappeared altogether.
The report concluded that “CD19 CAR-T cells are highly effective in high-risk patients with CLL after they experience treatment failure with ibrutinib therapy.”
“It was not known whether CAR T-cells could be used to treat these high-risk CLL patients,” said Dr. Cameron Turtle, an immunotherapy researcher at Fred Hutchinson, in a statement. “Our study shows that CD19 CAR T-cells are a highly promising treatment for CLL patients who have failed ibrutinib.”
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL, in simple terms, is a cancer of the white blood cells in adults and is the most common type of leukemia. B-cell lymphocytes found in the bone marrow are responsible for the body’s defense mechanism against infection but CLL takes a heavy toll on these lymphocytes.
What really happens in patients with CLL is that B-cells grow uncontrollably accumulating in the blood and bone marrow where they overwhelm the healthy blood cells.
Statistics show that CLL is predominantly a disease of the elderly but, in rare cases, has known to affect teenagers and children as well, which, in most cases is hereditary. Data also shows that CLL affects men more than women with more than 60% of new cases occurring in men.
As early symptoms are not severe, most cases are diagnosed during routine blood tests that show an increased white blood cell count resulting in swollen liver, spleen, and lymph nodes with anemia and infections setting in as the disease advances.