Kite’s Tecartus is First CAR T Therapy Approved for Adults with B-Cell ALL

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, illustration
[Source: KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images]

The FDA has granted approval for Kite’s Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel) for the treatment of adult patients (18 years and older) with relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Tecartus is the first and only chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy approved for adults (18 years and older) with ALL. The drug had received FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation and a priority review for this indication.

In July 2020, the FDA approved Tecartus for treatment of adult patients diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) who have not responded to or who have relapsed following other kinds of treatment. Tecartus was the first cell-based gene therapy approved by the FDA for the treatment of MCL.

“Tecartus has already transformed outcomes for adults living with mantle cell lymphoma, and we look forward to offering the hope for a cure to patients with ALL,” said Christi Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of Kite, which is a Gilead company.

The drug’s current approval for ALL is based on results from ZUMA-3, a global, multicenter, single-arm, open-label study in which 65% of the evaluable patients (n=54) achieved complete remission (CR) or CR with incomplete hematological recovery (CRi) at a median actual follow-up of 12.3 months. The duration of CR was estimated to exceed 12 months for more than half the patients. Among efficacy-evaluable patients, median duration of remission (DOR) was 13.6 months.

There were side effects. Among the patients treated with Tecartus at the target dose (n=78), Grade 3 or higher cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and neurologic events occurred in 26% and 35% of patients, respectively. Kite reports these side effects “were generally well-managed.”

Median overall survival (OS) from ALL is only approximately eight months with current standard-of-care treatments

“Adults with ALL face a significantly poorer prognosis compared to children, and roughly half of all adults with B-ALL will relapse on currently available therapies,” said Bijal Shah, MD, ZUMA-3 investigator and medical oncologist, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida. “We now have a new meaningful advancement in treatment for these patients. A single infusion of Tecartus has demonstrated durable responses, suggesting the potential for long-term remission and a new approach to care.”

Adults with relapsed or refractory ALL often undergo multiple treatments including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplant. Instead, CAR T-cell therapy works by harnessing a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. With CAR T, the patient’s blood is drawn and the T cells are separated. Then the T cells are genetically engineered with a specific receptor that enables them to identify and attack cancer cells, and put back into the patient’s body.

“Roughly half of all ALL cases actually occur in adults, and unlike pediatric ALL, adult ALL has historically had a poor prognosis,” said Lee Greenberger, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). “Developing new therapies that would be life-changing for people with cancer has been a dream of LLS. We are proud to see the potential of CAR T realized for even more people with this approval for brexucabtagene autoleucel.” Patients can access Tecartus through 109 authorized treatment centers across the US.

Tecartus is also currently under review in the European Union and United Kingdom for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor ALL.

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