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Findings from Research Study of Leukemia Patients Announced at ASH Annual Meeting

December 06, 2013

Three and a half years after beginning a clinical trial which demonstrated the first successful and sustained use of genetically engineered T cells to fight leukemia, a research team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia announced the latest results of studies involving both adults and children with advanced blood cancers that have failed to respond to standard therapies at the American Society of Hematology’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans on December 7. The research team of Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, reported its findings from their studies of the first 59 adult and pediatric leukemia patients who received the investigational and personalized cellular therapy known as CTL019.

Two of the first three chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients who participated in the study, which started in the summer of 2010, remain in remission, with tests revealing reprogrammed cells still circulating in their bodies, on guard to combat tumor cells that may reappear in the future. Additional highlights of the new research results include an 89 percent complete response rate among adult and pediatric patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The team, which includes investigators who treat patients at both the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, announced some key findings from trials of three different groups of patients:

15 of 32 adult patients with CLL (47 percent) responded to the therapy, with seven of those experiencing a complete remission of their disease. 19 of 22 pediatric patients with ALL (86 percent) experienced complete remissions. The first pediatric patient treated with the protocol, who is now 8 years old, remains in remission 20 months later. Five patients have relapsed, including one whose tests revealed new tumor cells that do not express the protein targeted by the reprogrammed cells. All five of the first adult ALL patients treated thus far experienced complete remissions, the longest of which continues six months after treatment. One patient subsequently underwent a bone marrow transplant and remains in remission. One patient relapsed after three months with disease that also tested negative for the engineered cell target.

Read the Department of Communications news release.